A Murang’a based agronomist has urged farmers to embrace chili farming and seek agronomic practices for better returns on investment, especially if they wished to explore the export market.
While speaking to KNA at Summit farm in Maragua, agronomist Robert Ngugi popularly known as Ngugi wa pilipili, divulged that chili farming was slowly gaining popularity among progressive farmers in the country as demand for the commodity in the Arab and Europe countries remained all-time high.
“Chili farming for the export market is a lucrative venture, thus farmers who wish to explore this goldmine need to employ agronomic practices for better returns,” observed Ngugi.
The agronomist opined that in agribusiness, it was paramount for any farmer to first scout for a market for his produce, before engaging in any venture so as to avoid losses.
“Secure a market first and know what its needs are. Some markets require chili in its green form, while others demand for red chilis,” noted Ngugi
After getting a market, Ngugi advises that a farmer needs to get capital for the venture before seeking expertise advice as this would minimize the risk of losses from mis-information or lack thereof.
Notably, the most common chili varieties being demanded by the export market include the cayenne pepper, Demon F1, birds eye, habanero and jalapeno varieties.
The agronomist adds that chilis take 4-5 months until harvest and could be harvested for up to eight months before starting afresh
“Chilis or pepper do well in non-acidic well drained loamy soil with a PH of less than 6.5,” he expounded. In some areas, a soil test is necessary before planting the pepper.
“It is important to set up an irrigation system in areas where rainfall is insufficient, observes Ngugi, further noting that excess rainfall could cause leaf shedding and rotting while extreme water deficit is known to stunt growth of chilies.
Setting up a drip irrigation system for an acre piece of land would cost the farmer between Sh100, 000- Sh150, 000, but the returns are worthwhile, he added.
Ngugi disclosed that when well nurtured, a farmer could harvest up to two tons of chili from an acre piece of land in three months, where currently the market price for a kilo ranges between Sh70 to Sh100. The harvesting interval is 10 days.
Chilis are susceptible to pests like aphids and diseases like yellow rust and leaf spot among other fungal infections, which are managed by timely application of pesticides.
“Spraying is guided by the harvesting intervals as a farmer has to wait a few days after spraying due to chemical residue,” notes Ngugi.
“For better returns, the farmer should be hands on and not just rely on remote farming,” concluded Ngugi.
By Florence Kinyua