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South Sudan okra demand triples farmer income

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By George Munene

Low mar­ket prices can leave small scale farm­ers frus­trated, but one Kisumu okra farmer has proven that simple value ad­di­tion of valu­able crop can triple his farm­ing in­come with just one har­vest­ing period.

With a short shelf life of seven to ten days, small scale farm­ers of this crop find it dif­fi­cult to own cold rooms due to their ex­or­bit­ant prices. This is where Paul Ochi­eng saw an op­por­tun­ity- sun dry­ing. Which has en­abled him to ex­port six kilos of dried okra weekly to South Sudan at a price of Sh100 per kilo, com­pared to other farm­ers who fetch just Sh80 for the fresh pro­duce loc­ally.

The an­nual post-har­vest losses of fresh hor­ti­cul­tural crops in Kenya are es­tim­ated at more than 50 per cent ac­cord­ing to a 2010 re­search by The In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Trop­ical Ag­ri­cul­ture (IITA). Space and fa­cil­it­ies to handle food products, es­pe­cially fresh pro­duce re­main in­suf­fi­cient. This res­ults in high levels of waste and spoil­age dwind­ling farm­ers’ in­come.

“What opened my eyes in the dry­ing of okra was when I met South Su­danese stu­dents from the Great Lakes Uni­versity of Kisumu (GLUK) in 2016 who were buy­ing the pro­duce to trade back home. We agreed on a pur­chase price of Sh100 per kilo, Sh20 more than what Kisumu traders gave,” says Paul.

Re­lated News: Farm­Biz TV:Farmer grows fast acre of okra to make Sh6k in profits a day

Re­lated News: Ex­porter look­ing for ginger, gar­lic, okra, pump­kin for its grow­ing mar­kets

Due to the good qual­ity of Paul’s okra plant and high de­mand for the plant back in S. Sudan, the pur­chase price of a kilo moved from Sh100 per kilo to Sh300 per kilo—this was triple the ini­tial agree­ment.

To pre­pare the fruit for dry­ing Paul cuts the ve­get­able into slices of 1- 4 cm cross length and spreads them on hot rocks about 10:00 am in the morn­ing when the rocks are already heated by the fa­cil­it­at­ing for speedy dry­ing.

“In India, where okra is highly con­sumed, farm­ers often dry the pro­duce using hot air driers or mi­crowaves, but for me, I take ad­vant­age of the rocks in my homestead since I leave close Kit Mi­kayi a fam­ous tour­ist at­trac­tion site,” he adds.

Des­pite ex­port­ing it as flour, Ochie’ng is paid in fresh weight. 150 kilos of fresh okra can pro­duce about three kilos of flour which is packed in bags. This has re­duced trans­port costs by al­most 75 per cent.

“The high yield­ing “Pusa sawani” okra vari­ety I grow ma­tures in 45 to 55 days. I har­vest 350kg a week; 300kg is turned into flour (about 6kg) for ex­port to S. Sudan at Sh300 per kilo of fresh weight with the re­main­ing 50kg sup­plied as fresh pro­duce to Kisumu City’s Ju­bilee Mar­ket at Sh80 a kilo.” The farmer ex­plained. This trans­lates to Sh94,000 gross in­come a week and Sh367,000 a month.

Re­lated News: Refugee chan­ging her life by grow­ing sweet potato, okra and kale in her camp kit­chen garden

He says the har­vest­ing period of okra being three months, at the end of every sea­son he earns a gross of Sh1,128,000.

The stu­dents have also opened a res­taur­ant within GLUK, mak­ing and serving okra flour cha­patis and snacks to the many South Su­danese and other stu­dents in the cam­pus. This has meant Paul con­tinu­ally in­crease his pro­duc­tion to match rising de­mand.

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