- Kenya has the suitable ecological environment for growing beans and other pulses, but the challenges have conspired to lock farmers out of the fast-growing Indian market.
- In 2013/14, India consumed a total of 21.5 million MT of pulses, which is much more than what the Asian country produces locally.
- Kenya has enough semi-arid land, which is suitable for production of pulses, presenting a huge opportunity for production of the cereals.
- Bush beans, is the most common of the pulses in the country but cultivated at 0.2MT per hectare makes it more than seven times below average.
Poor soil fertility management, bad agronomical practices and lack of appropriate seeds that can withstand common diseases are denying Kenyan farmers a chance to sell their pulses to the multi-million shillings market in India.
Experts note that Kenya has the suitable ecological environment for growing beans and other pulses, but the challenges have conspired to lock farmers out of the fast-growing Indian market.
With a booming population of more than 1.2 billion, India in mid-2015 announced its intention to import 4 million metric tonnes (MT) of pulses that include beans, dry beans, horse beans, dry chickpeas, cow peas, dry lentils, lupines, dry peas, pigeon peas, and vetches annually particularly from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.
Notably, in 2013/14, India consumed a total of 21.5 million MT of pulses, which is much more than what the Asian country produces locally. With the ever-growing population, this consumption is expected to top 30 million MT by 2025.
The scenario presents a massive opportunity for smallholder farmers but productivity remains far below average, with the available stocks not being able to satisfy the local market.
SOUND ECOLOGICAL ENVIRONMENT
“As a country, we have the ability to tap into this market given the sound ecological environment for growing pulses, but what farmers are producing is not anywhere near what they should be producing,” said Anthony Kioko, the CEO of Cereal Growers Association.
Martins Odendo, the principal economist at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) in Kakamega, noted that the average yield of bush beans, which is the most common of the pulses in the country, is 0.2MT per hectare, more than seven times below average.
“If farmers used certified seeds with good agronomic practices and soil fertility management, they can easily harvest up to 1.5MT of beans per hectare or more, depending on the variety,” said Odendo.
In 2013, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, Kenyan farmers cultivated pulses on 1.47 million hectares of land and produced 758,000 tonnes.
Domestic production is largely dominated by dry beans (529,000 tonnes), followed by cowpeas (122,000), pigeon peas (73,000) and chickpeas (50,000), all which are candidates for the new Indian market.
If this was to improve seven folds, it means that the country will be able to produce over 5 million MT of the cereals, which is sufficient for the local and export markets.
URGENT NEED FOR TRAINING