Is Pawpaw Farming in Kenya Profitable: The Costs and Returns Per Acre

I have lately spoken and written a lot about pawpaw farming as a viable investment channel in Kenya and I have had to answer many questions from my readers. One of the most prominent questions has been, “But how profitable is pawpaw farming in Kenya?”

Red Royale pawpaw kenya

Pawpaw farming in Kilifi, Kenya

So I want to dedicate this whole article to answer that since profit is the sole reason for investment in agribusiness.

Cost of pawpaw farming per acre in Kenya

For the sake of these calculations, let us consider one acre piece of land. The initial costs will be:

Land preparation (initial ploughing) 5,000

Ridging (making the beds) 5,000

Holes preparation (digging and mixing manure) 22,000

Manure (1 canter lorry) 20,000

Seedlings (1,100) 66,000

Transplanting seedlings 5,500

Total = 123,500

You can significantly bring down the cost of seedlings by raising your own. We have written a comprehensive article on How to Grow Pawpaw Seedlings From Seeds. If you have the patience and time, you can follow the steps highlighted there in and save some amount on initial farm set up cost. 

Organic pawpaw farming 

I encourage you to do organic pawpaw production. This way of farming has much lower costs in the end and gives you higher yields which translate to more profit. Of course the initial costs will be a bit higher than in conventional farming.

 

While the market in Kenya might not reward you with higher prices for producing your pawpaws organically, the money you save by eliminating the need for expensive pesticides is worth the effort.

The most important thing if you choose to do organic pawpaw farming is to ensure that your soils are healthy and with the right nutrients. A soil test therefore becomes necessary. A comprehensive soil test will cost Ksh 5,000 and will tell you exactly what your soils need.

You will also need to keep your soils moist throughout the growth period of your pawpaw. That sounds like an expensive affair especially considering that the best places for pawpaw farming are those with hot climate.

However, maintaining your soil moisture can be achieved at a low cost through mulching. 

 

Hybrid Red Lady Papaya

commercial pawpaw farming in Kenya

Commercial pawpaw farming: More farmers in Kenya are considering pawpaw as a cash crop

Dry grass is the best mulching material and it should cost no more than Ksh 10,000 to cut and spread dry grass over an entire acre. If dry grass is not available, you can use a plastic mulch.

Expected returns

Pawpaw yields per acre vary slightly with variety. The best varieties in Kenya currently are solo sunrise, Calina IPB9 and Malkia which have an average production of 30 tons per acre annually.  

Solo sunrise has a longer production lifespan and can produce economically for 3 years. The dwarf pawpaw varieties Calina IPB9 and Malkia F1 have a shorter production lifespan of at most 2 years. However, their yield per acre during those first years is higher than that of solo sunrise. They also have bigger fruits which fetch more if sold per fruit rather than in kilos. 

So for the sake of our calculations we shall take the average yield per acre of 30 tons a year. Keep in mind that a better part of the first year is used to grow the trees. Production starts 9 months after transplanting.

So let’s assume that you transplant your seedlings at the onset of the long rains in April 2020. Your first harvest should be in January 2021.

In the period of Jan 2021 to Dec 2021, an acre will give you at least 30 tons of fruits. The current farm-gate price of pawpaw is Sh30 per kg. Therefore, we expect a turnover of Sh 900,000 for that period.

This same production is also expected in the second year of production (Jan 2022 to Dec 2022). The dwarf varieties would then reduce their production significantly in the 3rd year of production but solo sunrise is likely to give at least 20 tons in that year (Jan 2023 to Dec 2023). 

The initial cost described above only applies in the first year. Other than that, recurrent costs of production include irrigation costs and the cost of a farm worker.

Without a doubt, pawpaw farming is a business that is known to few people in Kenya. While most people sit wondering whether pawpaw growing is worth the effort, its farmers in Makueni, Machakos and Meru are enjoying handsome profits. The tree is rather hardy and hence requires little maintenance practices. 

 

AAF 2022.