The adverse effects of climate change, unpredictable weather patterns, and unreliable markets have seen crop farmers incur massive losses.
Grapes are an excellent option for farmers looking for climate-tolerant crops that respond positively to hot temperatures.
Grapes are a tropical fruit crop in Kenya that commands premium prices in the fresh local market. With the rising demand for raisins and the momentum around wine production, it is a rapidly growing agribusiness that farmers should consider venturing in.
The crop performs well in most parts of the country with warm and dry weather conditions, such as Naivasha, Kibwezi, Yatta, Mombasa, and Mandera.
Advantages of Growing Grapes
Over the years, the demand has increased rapidly due to their health benefits and extensive use in the food processing and wine industries. They can be consumed fresh or processed into other products such as wines, juices, raisins, jams, and jellies.
Since they sell at premium prices in local and export markets, grape farming is a lucrative venture that can provide farmers with a steady income. With favourable growing conditions, you can produce the desired quality for wine production.
Most parts of the country offer the ideal soils necessary for grape production. They are adapted to various soil conditions but flourish and produce higher yields in fertile soils with a pH range of 6.5–8.5. The soil also needs to have a perfect water-holding capacity.
As a grower, you need something that adds value to you and your consumers. Grapes are a rich source of vitamins A, B6, C, and K and minerals like manganese, phosphorus, sodium, magnesium, calcium, copper, and iron. Besides, they contain high antioxidant content, dietary fiber, and phytonutrients.
Unlike other crops, grapes are susceptible to fewer pests and diseases. Mostly, they are affected by pests like red spider mites, thrips, beetles, leaf hoppers, mealy bugs, and flea beetles. They are prone to diseases like powdery mildew, black rot, botrytis, Downey mildew, anthracnose, and Alternaria blight.
Why Grape Farming?
The wine industry is growing rapidly in local and export markets, especially in Europe. The UK, for instance, targets an output of 10 million bottles or higher. By 2040, UK sales are predicted to reach about 40 million bottles. This means the market for table grapes is expanding in the Middle East, Europe, Russia, and Asia-Pacific.
Kenya offers an ideal climate for grape production. Most regions offer warm and dry temperatures, adequate sun, and enough cold during the dormancy stage. These conditions are necessary for producing premium-quality grapes.
Great temperature fluctuations
Most parts of the country offer significant temperature fluctuations, increased solar rays, and water scarcity. Elevated vineyards are the best grape farming as they expose the plants to optimum solar rays.
Things to Consider in Commercial Grape Farming
- Decide what type of grapes you want to produce. Is it for fresh consumption or processed food?
- Check whether the soil conditions are appropriate for the grapevine.
- Select a suitable variety according to the season and agro-climatic needs.
- Adopt a proper plant protection system for your grapevine.
- Finally, arrange the appropriate irrigation system for grapes cultivation.
Suitable Soil for Grape Farming in Kenya
You can grow grapes with a wide variety of soil. However, the yield and quality are highest on good fertile soils with pH 6.5 to 8.5.
In addition, grapes prefer organic carbon above 1.0 per cent, are free of lime, and have a medium water-holding capacity. Salinity in the soil is the major aspect that impacts the growth and yield of the crop.
So, why not tap into this economic opportunity and venture into grape farming?