A Marketable Cabbage Variety Is Changing the Status of Local Retail and Export in Kenya

Kenya farmers have been used for long to popular varieties like Gloria F1, Copenhagen, Sunny F1, Karen F1 and Riana F1. The most recent varieties include Polo F1. The most outstanding, however is Queen F1, a hybrid that is slowly changing the lives of farmers.  Weighing 5 kilograms at maturity, the sizable vegetable now provides variety to the cash crop market for smallholder growers. Limuru is a major producer of this type of cabbage due to its cool weather.

General Background of local Cabbage

The cabbage is perhaps the most widely used vegetable in a typical Kenyan home. The country is among a handful of net exporters of cabbages in Africa. The other nations include Egypt, Angola, Rwanda and South Africa.

The production of cabbages, according to Export Processing Zone has a “local horticulture market that is very open.” This means that prices can go to extremes when there is an interplay between surplus and shortage.

For instance, in late 2017, a cabbage sack of 126 kilograms cost a minimum of KSH1843 ($18.43) in Nakuru and a maximum of KSH 3700 ($37) in Mombasa.

For the well-known reason of satiating local demand first, the cabbage market in Kenya has two unequal divisions: local and export. As the following production areas reveal, exports are less than local retail.

In Kiambu, Machakos and Nairobi where cabbages grow between 800 and 2400 meters in elevation, the crop is mostly destined to local homes. The same applies to Baringo and Nakuru in the Rift Valley and neighboring Nyandarua where the crop thrives at altitudes between 2100 and 2800 meters. In Embu and Meru in Eastern and Nyeri and Murang’a in Central, the crop grows between 800 and 2500 meters above sea level and is mostly for the local market. The same applies to the 1100 to 2200 meter growth area in Kisii and South Nyanza in Western parts of the country.

Even in world producers like the US, much of the cabbage production enjoys local retail. Only up to 4% undergoes export. Like the US, which exports more than 92 percent of its export cabbages to neighboring Canada, there are cabbage market linkages between Kenya and Tanzania.

Queen F1

According to Kenya Seed Company, the big blue green cabbage has the ability to outdo others in the green vegetable market. It matures a little ahead of its third month after planting. It can produce 30,000 kilograms in just one acre when there is proper irrigation and fertilization. Its value chain lies in ease of transportation over a long trip. Some farmers in Central Kenya have reportedly earned KSH 167, 500 ($1643) in just a single acre’s harvest.

Queen F1 is best suited to cool and relatively warm areas. Its hybrid status gives it the ability to resist common cabbage infections like black rot.

To ensure that the seeds are actual QF1, the seed authority in Kenya advises farmers to use the services of official agricultural vets in the counties. They usually recommend the growing of the seeds in raised nurseries prior to transferring the seedlings to the farm. The best soil PH is between 6.5 to 6.8 with a low level of acidity. This variety in particular requires plenty of water to conserve in its big fleshy dome and in areas of low rainfall, drip irrigation is a good practice to bring moisture to the plant’s roots.

To practice responsible agriculture, farmers can use up to 5000 kilograms of farm compost over the three months of growing. Currently, large plantations opt for 80 kilos of synthetic fertilizer for every acre. The easiest way to control the infestation of aphids and other boring and leaf-consuming pests is crop rotation.

Thus, the high-yielding cabbage variety, Queen F1 has come to improve the value chain of the vegetable market in Kenya. Its vibrant, crack-free firm head makes it a winner in the retail stores. It retails per piece between KSH 20 and 40 ($0.2 and $0.4).