How farmers look for new markets every season

tomato nku

An acre farm can grow up to 2,500 splits of brachiaria grass. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Choosing the right marketplace can triple farmers’ earnings instantly, with farmers reporting consistent jumps in sales on finding better places to sell from, which connect them directly to the right buyers, and reduce their wastage.

Githaiga Ngarry Kihara, a farmer from Gakindu in Nyeri County, says his earnings went tup to Sh100,000, from Sh30,000, after switching from selling his produce directly to consumers from his farm in Gakindu to opening a stall at Nairobi’s Paramount Plaza in the CBD.

There, he is now selling splits of Brachiaria Mulatto II hybrid grass, which is resistant to drought, in a venture he began in August last year with the intent of supplying livestock farmers in Nyeri County.

“I can now serve my customers from other regions with much ease due to availability of transport in Nairobi, which has enabled me to deliver my produce while still fresh to them,” said Githaiga.

Having started on the basis of farm-gate sales, he quickly realised that most of his customers were from outside the county. Since there was no direct means of transport from Nyeri to other areas such as Kakamega, Kisii, Bomet, Kericho and Narok, he opted to relocate his marketing base to the city, which has improved transport networks, in order to serve his customers from all areas.

For delivery, he uses his personal car, a Toyota Fielder, to supply the splits within 150km of either Nairobi or his Nyeri farm, and sources public transport and courier services to reach his buyers from distant areas.

As of December 2016, there were over 176 matatu saccos and 41 courier service companies operating to and from Nairobi, according to the Sacco Societies Regulatory Authority (Sasra), which has given Mr Githaiga a complete range of options in transporting his splits to farmers from far.

“The relocation has certainly paid off, as it has increased my customers from 10 to 30 per week and has more than tripled my income to Sh100,000 a month,” he said.

“I deliver more than 30 brachiaria splits to my customers at Sh10 each, every week, but during rainy seasons I deliver over 100 splits, because more farmers plant during this time thus they are in demand,” he said.

Although farmers pay for the delivery, Mr Githaiga has a free delivery offer to customers who place orders above Sh12,000, in order to promote impulse buying, or buying in greater quantities.

Now in business for just six months, he also uses social media pages to sell his products, improving his customer reach.

“Through Facebook posts I receive enquiries and orders from Kenyans in the diaspora living in the US, South Korea, South Sudan, UK, Switzerland and Botswana who want the splits to be delivered to their families in Kenya,” he said.

“I also use the page to educate farmers and friends more about brachiaria grass.”

An acre farm can grow up to 2,500 splits of brachiaria grass, which has high levels of crude proteins, at around 18 per cent, is drought-tolerant for up to six months, makes excellent silage, and increases milk production in cows.

Besides moving in order to find well-connected markets for their produce, farmers can also sell at open air markets, which also attract more consumers in Kenya.

Livingstone Ng’ang’a now makes an extra Sh50,000 a season from selling his tomatoes in Muthurwa Market in Nairobi and Daraja Mbili market in Kisii, as opposed to waiting for orders during harvesting time from local traders.

The move has seen his earnings climb to Sh2.06 million a season from Sh2.01m.

“When I am about to harvest, I normally find out the market price from brokers and compare the cost of transport against the profit of waiting on orders. If the difference is less than Sh500 per box then I would rather wait for orders from local traders to avoid transport cost,” said the 2017 Bachelor of Law graduate from Mount Kenya University.

“However, I do prefer selling my produce in the market to waiting on orders from traders because they select only grade one to three tomatoes, which are bigger in size and desirable, leaving the smaller ones, which go to waste. When I sell at the market, I transport all my produce, including the smaller ones, which are also sold.”

Ng’ang’a grows the Shanty F1 tomato variety and harvests 72 boxes of tomatoes per season.

Five boxes of the 72 carry small tomatoes of grade four and five, which count as low quality, leaving 67 of high quality.

A box of high quality tomatoes goes for Sh6,000 while that of low quality fetches Sh2,000 per box.

- African Laughter