They are moneymakers
One of the crops that can give you fast and good money is passion fruits. According to Ronald Wasswa and Bashir Mayiga who have been growing them for close to five years, and are trainers at the Harvest Money expo, passion fruits can be grown on a small piece of land and yield you good money. Even if one did it on a quarter of an acre, the yields can be as much as sh10m per season.
A farmer can either grow hybrid varieties or the local varieties. Local varieties have a better scent than hybrids. However, the advantage with hybrid is that it will last many more years than the local variety because they are not susceptible to root and collar rot diseases. Hybrids also produce more fruits, which is why commercial farmers go for them.
In Uganda, according to the agriculture ministry official zoning system, passion fruits can be grown across the central region, Rwenzori and Elgon ranges, parts of West Nile, Bushenyi and Kisoro.
There are both local and grafted varieties on the market today. Local varieties include the Masaka variety and UPF12, while improved breeds include KPF and Kawanda. Comparatively, local varieties are also less capital intensive as they do not require wires for constructing beds on which the vines creep. However, they produce less fruit and have a shorter harvest life. On the other hand, hybrids need these beds and produce three times as much with longer harvest periods.
Passion fruits are mainly grown from seeds which can be bought from a farm supply shop or better still, the seeds can be got from a healthy passion fruit. A fruit with a dark purple colour is a sign that it has good seeds.
After drying the seeds, they are planted in a nursery bed with soil mixed with compost manure. Compost manure can either be bought from commercial producers now scattered around the country or alternatively you can create your own manure by using a combination of animal waste and kitchen waste. You cover it in a pit for at least three months before applying to a farm.
In the first week, the seedbed should be covered with mulch to provide warmth, vital for germination but after, a shelter is made out of leaves or grass and erected over the nursery bed. The shelter should be made in such a way that it allows free circulation of air and the bed must be watered regularly. After germinating, the seedlings should be put into polythene bags but farmers should ensure that they do not overwater the seedlings as this might cause root rot.
Alternatively, you can buy already nurtured seedlings from other farmers. Seedlings cost between sh2,000 and sh3,000 each. This means that if you have an acre, you spend around sh1.2m-sh1.3m on seedlings alone. The seedlings take one month to be transferred to the garden. But before transferring them to the garden, holes of 3x3ft should be dug a month earlier and manure applied.
You need at least one spade of manure around the hole or at least a five tonnes truck for an acre. This costs sh400,000. A spacing of 8x8ft should be followed while planting the passion fruits in the garden. This gives around 400-450 plants per acre.
Ronald Wasswa, a farmer in Koome Islands, advises against leaving a depression at the core root of the plant as this may result in water logging and hence root rot. A trellis (ekitandalo) made from logs and reeds should be constructed in the garden and strings or wires on which the passion fruit vines can climb on also be put in place.
Wasswa uses fishnets to create the bed, but others can use metallic wires like those used to hang clothes. On average, buying the poles and wires for the ekitandalo costs between sh3m and sh5m.
Passion fruits begin to flower at six to seven months and a farmer can begin picking ripe fruits three months later. One should pick only the fruits that have fallen on the ground.
However, if the demand is high, harvest the mature purple fruits. To increase the shelf time of the fruit, harvest with its stalk.
Pests and diseases
Diseases that attack passion fruits include woodness virus, septoria spot, cucumber mosaic virus, mealybugs, fruit flies and fusarium wilt. These can be managed by either spraying or in worst cases uprooting affected crops so that the diseases are isolated. Consult an expert before you decide to use any spray.
Passion fruits are sold both locally in the big markets and through exports to Europe, Asia and Kenya. Bashir Mayiga, a farmer from Kalungu and Wasswa, say a farmer can harvest three to six sacks of fruit per week from an acre if all goes well. Under good management, a passion fruit plant can last four years. During this period, a farmer will be picking fruits at regular intervals. The average price of a kilogramme off season is sh6,000, with a single fruit going for sh200 to sh300. At peak harvest, a kilogramme drops to about sh2,000, while a single fruit costs an average sh100. A sack at the moment is sh400,000 to 500,000 in most markets in the city.
Modest harvests per acre of a well-kept passion fruit farm are over sh45m through three months of seasonal harvesting, against an operational expense of around sh27m for the first planting season. This gives a profit of sh18m per acre. The profits go up in subsequent harvests since cost of production drops. There are two seasons per year.