How profitable is kales farming in Kenya?

kales (sukuma wiki) farming in Kenya

 “Sukuma wiki” (kales in English) is the most consumed leafy vegetable in East African countries like Kenya and Uganda. It is mostly served with Ugali as a meal of choice at least once a week in every Kenyan household. At least 90 per cent of small scale farmers in rural and urban areas grow it. But, how profitable is sukuma wiki farming in Kenya? 

In this post, In this post, we will project the costs, gross income and net profits of growing kales in an acre. We will subtract the cost of production from the revenues of growing and marketing it. The detailed analysis includes kales pesticides and kale fertilizers needed in crop management for high yields.

Assumptions for “Sukuma wiki” profits analysis

The costs on this analysis are the upper-side. It is because we propose a strict adherence to crop management practices like crop nutrition, weed, disease and pest control. 

  • The analysis is for open-field farming, which is rainfall reliant and differs from irrigation and greenhouse farming.
  • The gross marginal analysis is for a highly productive kale farming region like Nyandarua, Kiambu, Meru, Narok, Nakuru, Nyeri and Kirinyaga counties.
  • The seed variety is the Thousand headed kale variety. It has a long harvesting period of 2-3 months. A yield of 15 tons (15,000kg) per acre. The seed is resistant to some pests and diseases, good tolerance to heat and grows fast, strong and uniform with succulent leaves.
  • In this analysis, we have assumed a constant buying price of KES 14 per kilogram (KES 700 per 50 kg bag) of kales.

Costs and Profits for kales farming in Kenya

In this section, we detail the revenues and cost of growing kales in Kenya using the assumptions above. The analysis uses current market rates for price of farm inputs, labor and services like ploughing.

How profitable is kales farming in Kenya?
How profitable is kales farming in Kenya?

Total revenues

Given the above yield potential of 15,000 kg per acre, you can ear total revenue of KES 210,000 after selling your Sukuma wiki. a five acre farmer willl earn KES 1,050,000.

The market prices for kales are highly volatile and affected by seasonality. Marketing is informal without use of weights and measures. Farmers sell bundles of kales at varying prices (KES 5- 20) based on prevailing market prices. we have assumed a price of KES 14 as a negotiated contract price standard in the harvesting period.

Cost of production

Farming kales in one acre will cost you approximately KES 111,900. These costs arise from buying seeds, raising seedlings, soil and water testing, land preparation, crop nutrition, crop protection, crop management and marketing costs.   break each of these as follows; Understand the cost breakdown here below.

Seed and seedlings

You will need 125 grams/acre of Kale seeds. You are advised to buy quality certified seeds from an accredited agrovet or a kales seed company shop near you. Establish a hygienic seed bed in the open field, a propagation tunnel or buy seeding trays for healthy seedlings. Thin excess seedlings and weed the bed to keep seedlings healthy. Besides, water them once or twice per day till they are ready to transplant.

Plant your Sukuma wiki seedlings when they have four or five leaves. Depending on how you raise the nursery, they are ready to transplant in 4-6 weeks after you sow your seeds In our estimates of the above activities (weeding, pest and disease control labour) you will spend KES 6,800 to get ready seedlings.

Soil testing

Highest kales yield are in well-drained fertile soils that has high organic matter. The optimal soil acidity is a value of pH range of 5.5 to 7.0. The best altitude is 800 to 2200 meters above sea level. The require ample rainfall of 750 mm and may need irrigation from time to time

To determine your soil and water suitability for growing kales. Do the basic soil and water analysis tests. For these, you will incur around KES 6,000 given current market costs.

Land Preparation

The main site for your kales should have a fine tilth with soils at least 15 cm deep to promote better and faster and firm root development.

  • Plough the land early enough to expose pests and perennial weeds to direct sunlight.
  • 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 these are Ksh 8,000 and Ksh 9,600 as shown in the figure above.

Getting a farming land in productive areas like near towns and water sources is expensive. If you do not own it, you can lease it at KES 7,000 per annum as an average cost.

Kales fertilizer costs

Which is the best fertilizer for Sukuma Wiki? Your first step is doing a soil analysis before cultivation. Using the test results and recommendations for nutrient needs you will use a mix of compost, planting and top dressing fertilizers for the best yield results. The general advice is as follows.

  • Basal application of rotten compost or farmyard manure when tilling. Use seven (7) tones per acre at a cost of KES. 2000 per ton.
  • Apply 1 teaspoonful or 5 g per hole (50 kg/acre) The cost is KES 3500 per 50 kg bag.
  • Top-dress kales with 20 g of CAN (40 kg/acre) when plant is 20 cm tall and 40 g of CAN per kale plant (80 kg/ acre) three weeks later. You will buy a 50 kg bag at KES. 3000

To boost leave growth and appearance you can opt to apply foliar feed and bio stimulants like Easygro starter (N:P:K 18:20:21+ TE) and the Easygro vegetative (N:P:K 27:10:16 +TE).

Options to increase soil organic matter on your field for conserving 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.

Kales pesticides

Kale yields are negatively affected by weeds, pests and disease infestations ash shown below;

Kale (sukuma wiki) DiseasesSukuma Wiki (kales) Pests
Damping off
Black rot
Downy Mildew
Powdery Mildew
Ring spot
Black Leg (Dry rot canker)
Cutworms
Aphids
Sawflies
Black diamond moths
Caterpillars
Thrips
common sukumawiki (kales) pests and diseases in Kenya

To manage pests and disease infestations, spray following sukuma wiki bio-pesticides.

  • Fungicides; (Cymoxanil + Mancozeb)
  • Herbicides (oxyfluorfen)
  • Insecticides (Amitraz; profenofos, bacillus thuringiensis)

The costs to buy the farm chemicals will cost you KES 11,500.

Perennial farm weeds can destroy Sukuma Wiki growth by competing for nutrients, light and space. To control weeds weed your farm at least twice or depending on growth and rainfall.

Labor costs

Labour is the highest cost of production in your kales growing. You will need a total of 119 working days. You need people for transplanting, weeding, topdressing, furrow making and harvesting. We assume 1 working day to be KES 300. Sprayers will charge you KES 150 per knacks pack sprayer to apply farm chemicals and foliar feeds. After harvesting, you will need people to sort, grade and package your kales. These will charge you Ksh 80 per for the job.

The total costs of labor are KES 35,700 as shown above.

Gross Profits

 To determine your gross profits, get the difference in the cost of producing kales from the revenue proceeds. i.e Gross profits = Total revenue -Total Costs. As shown, you would make an estimated profit of KES 98,100, (200,000-111,900) for farming kales on an acre. 

Net Profits

To get the net profits, deduct miscellaneous costs of KES 21,190 from the gross profit. These are costs to transport, communicate and pay for county levies and other market fees. This will give you a net income of KES 76,910.

Marginal profit analysis

The final analysis is the calculate gross income, net profits and production costs per square meter. According to the results, one acre farmer will make a gross profit of KES 24 and a net profit of KES 19 per square meter.

What makes kales farming in Kenya so profitable?

It is high-value crop with a ready market. It is a highly nutritious vegetable 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. Sukuma wiki farming is a top choice for smallholder farmers if you are in rural or urban area. Besides, you can intercrop it with other high-value horticulture crops like passion fruits or spinach. You can grow kales intensively for commercial farming in greenhouses or irrigated open field during the dry season.

In the youtube video growing guide learn the basics of growing kales. How to fertilize sukumawiki, , spacing, soil requirements, temperature etc.

Samuel K

Samuel is the founder and senior agribusiness development consultant at Agcenture. He can be reached at skibicho@agcenture.com

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