How profitable is kales farming in Kenya?

 “Sukuma wiki” is one of the most consumed leafy vegetables in the East African region. It is highly nutritious and rich in beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, roughage, iron, calcium and vitamins C and K.  You can easily prepare kales in a variety of recipes together with traditional vegetables, meat and pulses. Collard greens farming is a top choice for smallholder rural and urban farmers practising intensive commercial horticulture production. But how profitable is growing and marketing kales vegetable in Kenya? 

In this ultimate guide on how to farm kales in Kenya, you will learn how to determine your gross income and net income economically after computing all total revenue and costs of growing and marketing Sukuma wiki on a one-acre piece of land. We have also prepared a detailed analysis for agro-chemicals, fertilizer, labour and other requirements for a 5-acre land. We also offer you tips on how you can cut down some costs to earn more profit from your kale farming.

Assumptions

This analysis is for open-field farming, which is rainfall reliant and differs from irrigation and greenhouse farming. As a commercial farming tool, we have itemised each applicable cost assuming farmers has rented land for commercial farming. This gross marginal analysis is for highly productive kale farming regions of Nyandarua, Kiambu, Meru, Narok, Nakuru, Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties. These costs are on the upper side since we propose strict adherence to agronomical practises especially on crop management, crop nutrition and weed, disease and pest control.  Farmers farming on their lands and getting manure from their dairy cattle would have lesser costs, hence earning higher profits.

Detailed Revenue Analysis

Total yields

There are a variety of indigenous, locally bred and imported kales seeds to choose from. Each option has a superior advantage in terms of yield potential, maturity period, and harvesting period before flowering and resistance to drought kale pests and diseases.  Some varieties that do well in the region are Collards Southern Georgia, Collard Mfalme, Thousand Headed, Marrow Stem and Sukuma Siku Hybrid. This analysis is for the thousand-headed variety given it’s long harvesting period of 6-9 months. It also has a high yield of up to 20 tonnes per acre under good agricultural practises as outlined in this article.

The thousand-headed kale variety has a production capability of 20 tonnes per acre. Given the weather and access to input challenges, we assume an 80 percent  production efficiency. A farmer can, therefore, get 16 tonnes of kales from an acre.

Gross income

The market prices are highly volatile and affected by seasonality. The market is highly informal and there is no adherence of weights and measures in the country. Farmers sell bundles of kales at varying prices based on prevailing market prices.

In this analysis, we have assumed a buying price of Ksh 14 per kilogram or Ksh 700 per 50 kg bag. Given the above yield potential of 16 metric tonnes, you can, therefore, generate Ksh 224,000 after selling your Sukuma wiki.

Detailed Cost analysis

Farming kales in one acre will cost you approximately KES 151,240. These costs arise from seed seedling preparation, soil and water testing, land preparation, crop nutrition, crop protection, crop management and marketing costs.   Understand the cost breakdown here below.

Seed selection and seedlings establishment

You will use KSh. 450 for 125 grams packet of kales seeds from an agrovet shop near you. You will need to raise seeds in an open field, wooden or plastic boxes or purchase seeding trays. You can propagate kales in propagation tunnels or use mulch on your nursery beds. To promote health of your seedlings thin them, you also need water them once or twice per day besides weeding, pest and disease control. 

Sukuma wiki seedlings are mature for transplanting when they have four or five leaves. Depending on your nursery practises, this will be in 4-6 weeks. In our estimates of the above including labour you will spend Ksh 24,000 raising the total cost of securing seedling preparation to Ksh 24,450.

Soil, water and pathological testing

Highest collard production is under well-drained fertile soils high in organic soil matter. While they can do well under slightly basic soils, their optimal soil acidity is a value of pH 6.0 to 7.5. They require ample rainfall as they prefer plenty and consistent soil moisture requiring irrigation from time to time.

To determine your soil suitability to grow kales. We recommend soil and water testing. For this, you will incur around Ksh 3500. Sometimes your soils may be contaminated by pathogens like the root-knot nematodes and heavy metal residuals like lead. To determine this, carry out a pathological soil testing at a cost of Ksh 2500.

Land Preparation

The main site for your kales should have a fine tilth with soils at least 15 centimetres deep to promote better and faster root growth and development. You will need to plough the land early enough to expose pests and perennial weeds to direct sunlight. You will then harrow the field two to three weeks after ploughing. This will further break and dry the soils to avoid crumbling. Digging and harrowing can be done manually or using a tractor.  The cost of ploughing and harrowing in one acre is Ksh 8,000 and Ksh 9,600 respectively.

Land for cultivation in highly productive areas, urban areas and near water sources are expensive. Where a farmer does not own the land, they will need around KSh. 7,000 per annum as lease or rent costs.

Gross marginal analysis for Thousand headed kales variety
Source: Agcenture.com
Crop Nutrition/ fertilizers

As earlier showed, Kales root development is most robust in well-aerated soils with good moisture-holding capacity. After carrying out your soil test, secure well rotten farmyard manure. You will require seven tonnes per acre at a cost of Ksh. 2000 per ton.

You will require a phosphate-based fertilizer such as DAP or TSP at transplanting stage to improve root development. Apply 1 teaspoonful per hole. An acre will require 2 bags of 50 kg each.  The cost of these fertilizers is Ksh. 3500 per bag.

To boost leave growth and appearance top-dress kales with 1 teaspoonful of a top dressing fertilizer such as CAN per plant. One acre of Sukuma wiki will require 2 bags of 50 kg bag each which you will buy at Ksh. 3000 per bag.

After harvesting for some time, spray your kales with multi-k foliar feed fertilizer to boost further leaf development. An acre requires 2 kg which is sold at Ksh. 400 per kg in local agro-dealers shops.

To continually increase soil organic matter on your field, conserve soil moisture, prevent erosion and minimize splashing you will need to mulch your farm. You can use sawdust or dry grass to cover your crops.

Crop protection

Kale yields are negatively affected by pests and disease infestations like Black rot, Anthracnose, Downy mildew, cutworms, flea beetles, thrips and aphids. Perennial farm weeds destroy crops growth through high competition for nutrients, light and space.

To control weeds weed your farm at least twice or depending on growth and rainfall.

To manage pests and disease infestations, spray your kale plants with fungicides (Cymoxanil + Mancozeb), herbicides (oxyfluorfen) and insecticides (Amitraz; profenofos, bacillus thuringiensis) and Bio-stimulants

The above cost of labour costs for spraying and weeding will spend Ksh.11,500 as outlined in the master budget below.

Labour costs

Labour is the highest cost component for your kale production. You will need not less than 50 man-days for transplanting your seedlings, weeding, topdressing, furrow making and harvesting. In a region whose labour cost per day is Ksh 300, you would cost you Ksh. 15,000.

Sprayers charge farmers Ksh. 150 per knacks pack sprayer to apply farm chemicals and foliar feeds. You will require at least 10 sprayers throughout your growing period.

After harvesting, you will experience additional costs to sort grade and package your product. After initial harvesting, you will pluck kales after every two weeks for 6 to 9 months. You will require 240 man-days who will charge you Ksh 80 per man-day.

Marketing and Other costs

To avoid exploitative broker prices, deliver your kales in a fresh produce market like Ihindu along Nakuru-Nairobi highway.It will cost you for transportation, communication and paying for county government, levies, and other market fees. As a farmer, you will have costs to survey or make field visits to monitor marketability of your kales.

Provide around Ksh 1,000 as contingency costs to cater for unforeseen expenses.

See the full gross margin analysis for kales in the figure below.

Profitability analysis

 To determine your profit, get the difference in the total cost of producing kales from the revenue proceeds of marketing your yields.  As shown, you would make an estimated Ksh 72,760 for farming kales in an acre. 

Net Profit = Gross revenue-Total Costs

Net Profit=Ksh 224,00-Ksh 151,240

Net Profit=Ksh 72,760

To understand your profitability per m2, we divide the net profit above with the total land area of 4048 m2. This gives profitability of Ksh 18.0 /m2. Other metrics you may need to compute your profitability are Return on Investment, gross marginal analysis.

Tips for improving your profits from kales farming

Farmers can earn more profits from kales farming through cost-cutting tips or using means that attract better prices as follows;

To cut costs;
  • To reduce the high cost on nursery preparation and maintenance, order mature seedlings from certified seed propagators for between Ksh 2 and Ksh 4 for mature seedling ready for transplanting.  For a 1000 seedlings, you will spend Ksh 4000 only on maximum as compared to Ksh 24450 besides time savings.
  • Large Scale production. In our analysis production cost/M2 for 1 acre is higher at Ksh 37.36 compared to Ksh 35.91 for acres. You can either produce in large scale to tweak fixed costs or combine efforts and farm as a producer group.
  • Improvise, recycle materials such as seeding trays and use locally available resources such as timber boxes and old containers to avoid digging deeper in your pocket.
  • DIY soil testing at home by ordering digital soil test kits online in bulk and use them.
  • Compost your manure from your dairy cows wastes or organic and food wastes at home to reduce the cost of buying and transporting manure from far
  • Use free labour from family and friends instead of  hiring casual farm workers to reduce labour costs
To attract higher selling prices;
  • Adhere to good agricultural practises (use of certified kales seed, timely weed and pest control, proper crop nutrition, ample watering etc.) To harvest more kales of superior quality per acre at the harvesting stage. This may fetch premium prices in the market.
  • Plan your crop to mature off-season when there is no glut in the market to fetch higher market prices.
  • Differentiate your kales by having a brand with clear labels on freshness and the hygienic handling from production to marketing in a  verifiable fresh produce traceability food  system
  • Grow your kales organically. Make sure you market them as “organically grown kales and free from synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides” to your potential customers. You may need to
  • Negotiate a higher contracted price with your customer to caution yourself from the high volatile cost movements in the market.

Samuel K

Samuel Kibicho is passionate about profitable and safe agriculture as a tool for wealth creation and food security. He is the founder of Agcenture and consults in market systems development (MSD), program management and result measurement, monitoring and evaluation for sustainable agriculture & rural development projects.

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