Why I won’t quit tree tomato farming soonTuesday May 03 2022
Ripe tree tomato fruits dangle from trees in a farm in Ainabkoi, Uasin Gishu County. This is the work of Elisha Onzillu, who also has another tree tomato farm in Nyaru, about 47 kilometres from Eldoret, and another one in Kipkabus.
The farmer has been growing tree tomatoes for a decade and has no intentions of quitting the agribusiness any time soon as it is a profitable undertaking.
In total, he has five acres of the crop and harvests between 700 kilos and 1,000 kilos per acre every two weeks.
“I ventured into tree tomato farming in 2010 when I noticed that it was much more profitable than the tree nursery which I was operating,” says Mr Onzillu, 40.
“After attending several seminars, I realised that I was on the right path, that’s when I leased half an acre for growing tree tomatoes. My initial capital was Sh100,000 which I got from selling the seedlings.”
Before starting the business, he visited Nairobi for two weeks to look for a market and in 2011, he started buying the fruits from other farmers and selling them.
“I was buying the fruits and sending them to my clients in Nairobi,” he adds.
“In 2013, I began selling to a company known as Fresh & Juice in Limuru, which had won a tender to supply Nakumatt. In 2016, I bought one-acre of land in Kipkabus, using the money I had made from the business,” says the farmer.
When Nakumatt Supermarkets were closed, he did not give up, since he had already secured markets in Marikiti Market and City Park, Nairobi.
In the one-acre that he bought in Kipkabus, he tried his hand in passion fruits, but the crop did not thrive.
“I faced various challenges including diseases, price fluctuation and it was labour intensive. I only harvested in 2017 and 2018,” says the father of three.
In a quest to increase his income, he leased another two acres of land in 2018 and planted tree tomatoes.
“In total, I have five acres; three acres in Uasin Gishu County and two acres in Elgeyo Marakwet County,” reveals Mr Onzillu.
The farmer grows Giant Red Oratia variety, which he says produces many fruits, with a single plant churning out to two kilos in two weeks.
“A farmer can harvest up to 2,000 kilos of fruits from one acre in two weeks,” he adds.
Mr Onzillu, who uses organic manure to grow his crops, says that he plants 1,200 tree tomato plants on one acre.
The farmer notes that Covid-19 affected his business. Initially, he had a client who used to buy one tonne of fruits but reduced it to 300-400 kilos, due to the pandemic.
Currently, he sells the tomatoes at between Sh70 and Sh80 per kilo. Initially, he used to sell at Sh100 per kilo.
“I have over 20 clients in Marikiti, Nairobi, Who I have never met. I send them the fruits and in turn, they send me money,” he says, adding that it is good to be honest in business.
Some of the challenges he faces are pests and diseases that affect the crop.
Mr Onzillu plants to add value to the fruits in a bid to increase his earnings.