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With no capital to farm herbs for export market, I went for joint venture

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RACHEL KIBUI

By RACHEL KIBUI
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Some six kilometres off the Maili Kumi-Solai Road in Nakuru County, one finds Aro Fresh Herbs Farm.

Ruth Wanyoro, one of the owners of the 25-acre establishment, is checking on their basil crop when we arrive.

“I have an urgent order for basil. I need to estimate the quantity I can harvest from this farm then know how much I should outsource,” she says after exchanging pleasantries.

The 34-year-old and her two partners grow a variety of herbs for export, but basil is their major crop because it is in high demand.

“Basil always takes the lion’s share of our herbs export package, averaging 37 per cent, followed by chives at 19 per cent while rosemary and mint come third and fourth at 10 per cent and 9 per cent respectively. The rest are herbs such as dill and thyme.”

On the farm are 16 greenhouses, with the biggest measuring 45 by 8 metres and the smallest 15 by 8 metres.

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The trio grow the herbs mainly for export, alongside horticultural crops such as cabbages, beetroot and carrots for the local market. The crops are farmed outdoor and most of the herbs indoors.

Mint and coriander are among the herbs for export farmed outdoor. Ruth says her interest in herbs started when she was working as a horticulturalist on a flower farm in Naivasha in 2011.

“My boss called me after a trip from Israel and intimated that there was a basil market that was opening up. He told me to research on how basil farming is done,” says Ruth, adding, “There was absolutely no one to consult, and I had to spend a lot of time doing the research online.”

She later grew the crop, and the firm exported, only for the produce to be rejected. And this happened the next four times, with the buyer saying the crop had been mishandled.

As a team leader, Ruth and her colleagues researched further on the best way to grow basil as well as other herbs.

“The produce was accepted on the sixth attempt,” she offers. She quit the company in 2018 and joined a bigger firm, which specialises in herbs for export, as an out-grower manager.

“I dealt with 500-600 farmers and most of them had started from scratch and are now well established.”

It was while working at that company that she met her two partners, one a foreigner who helps with finding market abroad and the second, a local investor who owns the land.

The three agreed to farm the herbs in Bahati for export in a joint venture that saw them contribute different amounts of cash for capital, with Ruth banking on her knowledge to farm the crops.

They started farming in May after agreeing on various components of the business, with the investors ploughing in Sh8m, which was spent on greenhouses, drip irrigation, land leasing and land preparations, among other expenses.

To grow basil for export, one first buys certified seeds, which are then propagated in seedling trays for three weeks before being transplanted in greenhouses.

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Ruth says her interest in herbs started when
Ruth says her interest in herbs started when she was working as a horticulturalist on a flower farm in Naivasha in 2011. PHOTO | RACHEL KIBUI | NMG

“We farm the crop in greenhouses because it attracts a lot of pests like caterpillars, whiteflies and thrips. Basil thrives in a warm environment such as a greenhouse.”

From a half-acre of mint, Ruth harvests 800kg and sells a kilo at 3.4 Euros (Sh384).

A greenhouse measuring 30 by 8 metres offers 100-150kg of basil, which sells at 3.4 Euros (Sh384) a kilo. A crop of basil is harvested once a week for eight weeks.

On the other hand, a quarter-acre of coriander produces about 400kg, which sells at 3.2 Euros (Sh361). “Our major markets are the Netherlands, UK, Germany and Israel.” Ruth says farmers in the herbs business can earn much more if they work as a group.

At one time she recalls trying to make farmers come together and connect the group of 35 to a client at a favourable price.

“But some farmers went direct to the client behind our backs and offered their produce at half the agreed price, spoiling the deal.”

Their challenges include getting packaging material as manufacturers may delay in delivery.

“It, thus, becomes difficult to get an alternative to plastic bags, which have since been banned by the National Environment Management Authority. The current weather has also made it challenging to harvest, especially the outdoor crops. You harvest a wet crop, yet you cannot send it to the clients in the same condition,” says Ruth.

Ruth explains that to go into a joint venture, all parties must understand the importance of the business and the impact.

“They must also understand the risks associated with the venture. Herbs for example are sometimes rejected by clients. Besides, there are high and low seasons.”

The parties must also work on a foundation of trust, she adds.

Jeff Kahuho, a senior programmes officer at Participatory Ecological Land Use Management (PELUM) Kenya, says young persons can partner with older people including their own parents, in joint ventures to get into farming.

“The old have the land and the capital and the youth the expertise. The two can agree on how to farm and share profits or losses but everything must be put in writing and captured in the business plan.”

Dos and don’ts for export crops

To grow crops for export, one needs an export licence from the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), Global GAP certification and company registration among others.
To control pests on the export crop, one should use traps to curb pests before they attack the crop.
If indoors, all doors must be kept closed and ensure no holes on the walls of greenhouses so that pests do not enter.
Application of Integrated Pests Management (IPM) methods must be applied.
If need be, only use the chemicals allowed by your clients.

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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