Coastweek website



Kenyan bixa farmers optimistic to sell in Chinese market  

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.

The export 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.

Over the 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.

While the 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.

Bixa, a 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 is concluded.

The others are avocado, herbs, peanuts, meat, hides, French beans, pulses (beans, peas and green grams), vegetables and fruits, flowers, skins, macadamia and gum Arabic.

“Kenya will start to export these agricultural products to the Chinese market. We have already signed phytosanitary agreements, what is remaining are tariff agreements.  

“Technical 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.

For bixa, the Chinese market would be a game-changer because the crop’s market has been limited, undermining its value.

Bixa is grown for its high-value seeds that contain bixin, which is globally used in food coloring and cosmetic industry.

Farmers of the crop at the Coast in Kenya are optimistic of the new prospects that China offers and are ready to seize the opportunity.

“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.

Kasonga 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.

“From my 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 said.

“After 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).

Kasonga said he loves the crop because in the initial stages, one can intercrop it with others including vegetables and maize.

“I normally 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.

Bernard Gambi, another bixa farmer in Kwale, said the crop is profitable because it can be harvested for up to 20 years.

“It all 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.

Over 20,000 farmers at the Coast grow the crop that was introduced in early 1970s in Kenya in Kwale, Lamu, Msambweni and Malindi.

Hosea 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.


Remember: you read it first at coastweek.com !

Sarova Whitesands Hotel banner | Coastweek


TO ADVERTISE ON THIS WEB SITE:  www.coastweek.com
Please contact

MOMBASA - GULSHAN JIVRAJ, Mobile: 0722 775164 Tel: (+254) (41) 2230130 /
Wireless: 020 3549187 e-mail: info@coastweek.com

NAIROBI - ANJUM H. ASODIA, Mobile: 0733 775446 Tel: (+254) (020) 3744459
e-mail: anjum@asodia.co.ke

    © Coastweek Newspapers Limited               Tel: (+254) (41) 2230130  |  Wireless: 020 3549187  |  E-mail: info@coastweek.com