From chocolate to beef, you’ve more tomato varieties to choose from
Farmers in Nyeri last week had an opportunity to learn how to grow various horticultural produce, in particular new varieties of tomatoes, during a county farmers’ field day.
At the Amiran Kenya stand, agronomists encouraged farmers to adopt hybrid varieties to ensure they achieve optimum production.
The company showcased some of their latest tomato varieties, which are resistant to disease and mature faster in about 75 days after transplanting at 21 days.
“We are advising farmers to adopt new technologies that should be used on their farms, the reason we are introducing the new varieties in the market,” said Dorcas Nderitu, an agronomist from Amiran said.
One of the newest variety in the market is called Chocolate zebra 2209.
Then there is beef tomato and cherry tomatoes, all which have different flavours.
“Just like the name depicts, the Chocolate zebra variety tastes like chocolate and has been embraced in the market due its taste” she noted.
It has an oval shape with deep brown colour just like chocolate with stripes on it.
“Production of this tomato largely depends on the management of the crop while on the farm,” noted Nderitu, adding that a farmer can achieve at least 10kg per crop and a maximum of 18kg.
She further stated that the tomato variety also fetches good prices in the market given its high productivity.
She encouraged farmers to grow the crop in greenhouse, where it is best suited.
“The reason we encourage farmers to grow it indoors is because besides protecting the plant from poor weather, the farmer will be using less chemicals making the harvest favoured in the market,” she said.
The beef tomato, according to Nderitu, has a tougher skin compared to those in the market thus favourable for cooking beef and other meats.
“It has a uniform size and has a longer shelf-life of two weeks without refrigeration,” she said.
A single tomato weighs between 200 to 300g.
The tomato varieties are disease tolerant, especially to tomato yellow leaf curl virus and fungal diseases found in the soils.
Nderitu encouraged farmers to grow certified and clean seeds to realise high yields.
– Irene Mugo
Farmers cry foul as tomato prices fall
Tomato farmers in Taita Taveta County are counting losses as prices of the commodity decline, with middlemen buying it for a song.
Mathenge Kamuzu, a farmer from Challa, is a distressed man. Kamuzu is among tens of farmers in Taveta sub county who are crying foul over exploitation by middlemen.
Farming being his only source of income, Kamuzu says the exploitation has made him make huge losses.
“The tomatoes are packed in wooden crates which are then added with more produce on top. The brokers take advantage of lack of market,” he said.
Normally, 35kg of tomatoes would go for Sh600-Sh800 on the farm. However due to the exploitation, the crate is now being loaded to 120kg and fetches the same price.
The farmer said the brokers dictate the price and reap the most in the value chain.
Kamuzu said he borrowed Sh800, 000 from a financial institution to invest in tomato farming on his four acres. He had hoped to repay the loan from the tomatoes but now he may be forced to sell his property to repay it.
“The cost of farming has gone up due to the rising prices of fertiliser and herbicides. I thought I would make a profit of Sh1. 6 million but it seems I will have a huge loss instead,” he said.
He added that he has been farming tomatoes for over 28 years and recently the brokers from Nairobi and Mombasa flocked their farms to make a kill.
“I am considering quitting tomato farming. I will rather start farming other crops like onions, maize and beans,” he said.
He also blamed the government for allowing tomatoes from neighbouring Tanzania to flock the market in Taveta, Voi, Mombasa and other neighbouring towns denying them market for their produce.
The farmer urged the County Assembly to enact laws that will protect local farmers from such unscrupulous business people.
“The county government should also put up a value addition plant. We keep on complaining yet nothing is being done,” he said.
Due to the outcry, the Executive for Trade Gertrude Shuwe outlawed the transportation of the oversized tomato crates.
She said the unstandardised units of weighing resulted into county losing revenue.
A lorry which initially would transport 250 crates of tomatoes now carries only 75.
“All those who will defy this order will be prosecuted while their vehicles will be held at the revenue collection points,” she said.
She revealed that the County Agriculture Department was in a process of putting up the processing plant at Challa in Taveta.
Mboghonyi ward MCA Jones Maskuj said farmers had incurred huge losses and it was time for the county government to address the issue. “I am glad that the tomato factory will start soon. This rot must end,” he said.
– Lucy Mkanyika
Food magazine launched
A new bi-annual publication on food security called Cha Kula has been launched. The publication by Route to Food, a food safety initiative, will stir the conversation around right to food, proper budgetary allocation to agriculture among other issues around food security.
Layla Liebetrau, the Route to Food Initiative’s Project lead, said that it is key to engage the government at both county and national level to implement food production polices which will improve food security and incomes for farmers.
“For progressive realisation of improved food and nutritional security, policies that prioritise the production of food crops, encourage family farming using organic inputs and stronger incentives, institutional support and extension services to small-scale farmers as well as diversification of the country’s food supply need to be adopted,” noted Liebetrau.
– Leopold Obi