This article focuses on sugarcane farming in Kenya. Sugarcane farming is a common practice in the country, especially in Western Kenya. It is a major source of livelihood for many people in the region.
Most of the sugarcane farmers in Kenya are small-scale farmers who sell their produce to sugar millers.
Sugarcane Growing Areas in Kenya
Ecological Requirements for Growing Sugarcane
- Deep well drained soil with a pH of 5.0- 7.0.
- Temperature of 20°c- 28°c.
- Altitude from 0-1800m above sea level.
- Annual rainfall of 1200- 2000mm.
Land should be thoroughly ploughed early enough before planting. It should be prepared to a fine tilth. Prepare furrows that are about 30- 40cm deep.
Sugarcane is propagated vegetatively with cuttings from mature stalks. The cuttings are planted by horizontally putting them down then covered with a thin layer of soil mixed with DAP which helps in proper development of roots.
The recommended spacing for planting the cuttings is 1m by 1.3m by 0.5m.
Weeding needs to be done regularly to avoid competition for nutrients and space. You can use selective herbicides to control the weeds.
Pests and Diseases
Common pests that attack sugarcane include African armyworms, stalkborers, spotted cane borer and pink sugarcane mealybug. Diseases include sugarcane smut, red rot, sugarcane mosaic and potyvirus.
The pests and diseases can be controlled by using selective sprays, planting resistant varieties and practising proper field sanitation/ hygiene.
Maturity depends on the variety planted. Some varieties mature faster than others. For example early maturing varieties mature after about 12 months while others take up to 24 months to fully mature.
Market for Sugarcane in Kenya
The biggest buyers of sugarcane are sugar millers. You can get into contracts with the sugar millers to supply them with sugarcane.
You can also sell sugarcane directly to consumers. It is a very profitable venture. If you walk around in almost every street, you will find young men and women selling sugarcane in wheelbarrows, with the least price being Kshs 10 for a small piece.