NAIROBI (Xinhua) --
The plant with beautiful red flowers,
somewhat shiny green leaves and brown pods with tiny red
seeds stands out on various farms at the Coast in Kenya.
crop, known as bixa, has been grown in the region for
years and farmers love it because of its economic
benefits, with some growing it on over ten acres.
years, farmers have been selling their produce to
brokers and to a single company in the region, which
processes and exports the high-value seeds.
firm buys the produce at fairly better price of 80
shillings (0.78 U.S. dollars) per kilo, the brokers get
produce at even half the price, exploiting farmers.
But this is
set to change following the signing of export agreements
between Kenya and China last month at the International
Import Expo in Shanghai.
valuable crop but little known in Kenya, is one of those
that the east African nation would start to export to
the Asian nation once the deal between the two countries
are avocado, herbs, peanuts, meat, hides, French beans,
pulses (beans, peas and green grams), vegetables and
fruits, flowers, skins, macadamia and gum Arabic.
start to export these agricultural products to the
Chinese market. We have already signed phytosanitary
agreements, what is remaining are tariff agreements.
teams from China and Kenya will start the process of
setting inspection criteria for each product category,”
Nzioka Waita, Chief of Staff in President Uhuru Kenyatta
office said recently.
the Chinese market would be a game-changer because the
crop’s market has been limited, undermining its value.
grown for its high-value seeds that contain bixin, which
is globally used in food coloring and cosmetic industry.
the crop at the Coast in Kenya are optimistic of the new
prospects that China offers and are ready to seize the
“I am happy
of the new market and once we start selling, it would be
a good thing for us. Currently, I sell to a firm in
Kwale County where I farm, but I believe with the new
market, our earnings can grow,” Michael Kasonga, a bixa
farmer, said Monday.
noted that the beauty of bixa farming is that it is not
labour-intensive, and the crop is also pest-resistant
and requires little fertilizer.
five acres, I harvest up to 200,000kg of bixa annually
and sell at between 0.68 dollars and 0.83 dollars a
kilo, normally according to the quality of the crop,” he
harvesting the seeds, we keep the produce in a dark
store so that it can mature. Thereafter, we remove it
and winnow it to separate the seeds from the pods before
delivering it to the factory,” explained Kasonga, adding
the crop at the Coast is called mrangi (colour).
he loves the crop because in the initial stages, one can
intercrop it with others including vegetables and maize.
plant it with maize or traditional vegetables, then
harvest the fast-maturing crops and leave bixa. I would
then prune it as it continues to produce,” he said.
Gambi, another bixa farmer in Kwale, said the crop is
profitable because it can be harvested for up to 20
depends on how you take care of the tree. You give it
fertilizer and prune for it to produce quality seeds
that you harvest and sell,” said Gambi, noting the
Chinese market brightens prospects for the crop.
farmers at the Coast grow the crop that was introduced
in early 1970s in Kenya in Kwale, Lamu, Msambweni and
Machuki, the chief executive officer of the Fresh
Produce Exporters Association of Kenya, in a recent
interview, noted that besides bixa, other crops that are
not consumed locally but which they hope to sell in the
Chinese market are herbs like basil, rosemary, chives,
tarragon, mint, parsley and thyme.