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Kari launches new high yield passion fruit variety

{mosimage}Passion fruit farmers in Murang’a North district are set to boost their earnings as they embrace a new variety  of the fruit that is more tolerant to drought and resistant to most soil diseases.
According to Murang’a agricultural officer, Mr Richard Muraro, the purple passion fruit, is the most recent improved type by Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), and more than 20,000 seedlings have been planted in Mathioya division alone.
A pilot project was started early this month, with the onset of the long rains season.
The area could become a major producer and exporter of the fruit, thanks to support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Kari and financial institutions. The new variety produces fruits after nine months with proper crop husbandry, and one acre of land can produce up to 800 seedlings, the agricultural officer said. But in order to earn higher returns, modern farming technologies, plant superiority and certified seedlings should be used to boost productivity.
The new improved passion fruit plant can produce up to 50 kilogrammes in each of the two growing seasons, a significant gain over the 10-30kg yield of local varieties.
The fruit’s stem is also  strong enough to hold more fruits,  added Mr Muraro.
Clement Muchiri, a  farmer who first planted the variety and exports it, advises other farmers to take up the venture because purple passion fruits are lucrative in foreign markets. Locally, passion fruit prices normally cost between Sh30-Sh80 throughout the year. He emphasised that diversification is key to maximising what small farmers can reap.
“Land scarcity has become a biting issue in this region,” Mr Muchiri told Business Daily. “Farmers will remain poor if they continue depending on growing maize on small scale. There are enough markets locally and internationally for the fruits.” Mr Muchiri  advises farmers to practise communal farming for ease marketing, and to get access to financial assistance, which are often a drawback for individual growers.
Finance institutions have tailored special products to promote the horticultural farming. Mr Muchiri said banks agreed to loan the farmers after a research proved passion fruits projects are viable and profitable. “The projects will create hundreds of jobs to the youth who form majority of the projects,” he said.
 “We appeal to other stakeholders and interested parties to assist in promoting the farming.”

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