What Ails the Mango Value Chain and What is the Fix?

About 40 to 50% of Kenya mangos undergo losses at the farm due to poor storage and lack of market or processing incentives. This is among the highest of any crop in the country. This even compares poorly with maize, another crop with high post-harvest losses, which stands at a more reasonable 30%. The problem is how to go about alleviating this issue with the low capital allocated to the sector. Some answers which we will explore include investment,  juice processing, better infrastructure, subsidy marketing and cooperative storage.

Mango is one of the most essential fruits in the semi-arid highlands and lowlands of Kenya. Murang’a, for example, is a highland with some dry areas congenial for these tropical fruits while Eastern is a combination of highlands and lowlands with semi-arid patterns that produce some of the best mangos in the country. The Coast, on the other hand, has sprawling lowlands with lush ngowe, peach and hybrid mango cultivars like Kent. The locals in these areas depend on the fruit for subsistence and revenue. However, only one processing factory at Hola in Tana River, built in 2012 serves the entire Coastal region.

Here is a look at the alleviation methods to help reignite Kenya’s regional mango glory.


Despite the above, there is promise in the mango value chain. According to Kenya Agribusiness and Agroindustry Alliance (KAAA), ngowe mango is a time bomb waiting for exploitation. The agency says that investing $30.2 million in this local variety is what is necessary to bring $41.7 million in returns by the fifth year.

This holistically represents a hundred and ninety thousand ngowe mangos.  With an appreciation of 21 percent  per year, the investors of such an amount can attain a Return on Initial Capital of 52 percent by half a decade. The premise is that the fruit is congenial to the local weather unlike imported cultivars and thus the guarantee of revenue.

For an investor targeting the local reseller market, forecasts put 10 percent yearly increase in mango consumption in the Kenya. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization statistics (FAOSTAT), there were 574,000 metric tons in local consumption in 2013 which went up to 841,000 in 2017.  With this kind of progress, an investor may be able to rely on only the local market before branching to the overseas.

In terms of production capacity for all mango types, Kenya has seen an increment in output in five years, ending 2011.  From a paltry 384,000 tons in 2007, the output had nearly doubled by 2011 to reach 637,000 tons. This was a yearly increment rate of 13.4 percent.

During that period, the Coastal area produced nearly 70 percent while Eastern supplied nearly 18 percent.  In terms of hectarage, Kenya was the third country after Brazil and Pakistan. Its mango fields produced 10.7 metric tons for each hectare in comparison with Brazil’s 16.4 metric tons per hectare.

Ngowe mango is the most productive for a would-be investor. According to the Ministry of Agriculture/IDM Services, in a 2009 report, 10.7 metric tons per hectare is the mean rate of output for hybrid and other varieties. However, with ngowe, one hectare can have an output of 25.5 metric tons. This is an appreciation of 138 percent.

With this in mind, here are key places to sell Kenya mangos including ngowe:

•Open-air farmers markets: from Marikiti in Nairobi to road side markets, the open-air concept is a quick and ready cash leeway for selling mangos in Kenya.

•Groceries: supermarkets, malls and grocery stores provide line of credit services. Though some pay several months after orders, they have a price advantage for the seller.

•Retail outlets: these are small-scale buyers of small consignments who usually rely on at least one supplier. They pay in cash or line of credit.

In terms of the foreign market investor, the Kenya mango timeline is one of the best positioned in the world. Its export window is unique from that of other tropical American countries as it falls between October and January. These are months when demand is high and supply is low in the world markets.

Estimates put the average sale per metric ton of fresh, healthy mangos to export agencies to be $360. This means that a lesser quality tonnage would go for slightly more than half the above price. The least quality metric ton of Kenya mangos retail at an average $144, nearly three times lower than the best grade.

For an exporter to create a long-lasting mango sourcing arrangement, there is a need to identify at least one major supplier. There are Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) that support farmers by linking them to explorers. Unlike brokers, these help to manage the value chain right from provision of advice on what to plant, how to harvest and when to deliver the produce.

Key areas with such models include the Tana River river basin at the Coast, with Hola being the main market town. There are large plantations made up of several communal farms, each fifty hectares in extent. To meet supply demands, these farms also rely on more than six thousand small-scale famers in the surrounding areas. It is such arrangements that exporters can take advantage of to ensure long-term contracts.


There are three major challenges that face Kenya’s mango value chain. These include inaccessible roads, insufficient post-harvest equipment and low market information especially with frequent price changes. Of these three, infrastructure in terms of roads is arguably the most important as it hinders the timely transportation of the fruits to the market.

Concerning poor road networks, a study in Makueni and Kibwezi which are Kenya mango epicenters found that 90 percent of family growers sold their fruits at their farms. This was because they either lacked transportation services or there were no roads to facilitate personal trade. Thus, the brokers who could afford long-distance transport trucks could maneuver prices per piece from KSH 5 to 25 ($0.005 to $0.25). It is notable that in areas with feeder roads most farmers say they easily transport their produce to the nearest trading center without compromising on price.

Thus, some of the major factors that negatively impact on the value chain of crops like mangos are poor feeder roads. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however: the government began an agriculture-oriented infrastructure plan in 2016 (which has taken off slowly due to election debacles in 2017). There are also realizable goals such as ease of land access, which is already going on in many parts of the country in 2018. Farmers can now win lotteries to acquire land for free especially in impoverished areas.

Storage & Processing Plants

At least $1.8 million is the necessary amount for a processing plant that can serve a small region. The current processors work at a marginal 40 to 60 percent in capacity. They also usually need frequent repair and upgrades. To alleviate these issues, the government can help set up new modern operating plants, attract the private sector into processing or upgrade the existing facilities.

The government of Kenya has a program known as the Big Four Agenda in which farm-level processing is one of its provisions.  Among the initiatives of the program is to enhance the productivity of rural industries, some of which are farmer-run.

The happy news is that such SACCO-operated rudimentary processing plants are now in vogue. For instance, a story by the Daily Nation shows that Karurumo Horticultural Self-Help Group in Embu has its own processor. It consists of a cheap cold storage area that runs on a charcoal cooling mechanism.  The latter equipment is for phasing off the crops’ harvest-time temperatures before they undergo storage in the modern cooling facility.

The same facility has a cold processor that makes pulp and juice from the fruit. It runs under a solar dryer that operates efficiently at 1000 kilos of sliced mangoes which it dries ready for processing. This means that even where the dried mango products are left unsold, they have a longer freshness duration than ones left to rot in the farms.

Similar technique abound in the neighboring Machakos county. Here, farmers have also adopted a charcoal cooler which phases off heat from the stored produce together with the dampness in the hydrated charcoal. The heat does not come from any electric source other than residual sand in the brick cooler next to the charcoal cooler. Therefore, this is a technique that can help in storage and processing even in areas experiencing no rural electrification.

Subsidy Marketing & Credit

The concept of subsidy marketing where the government supplies seeds, finance and other incentives and takes a share of the farmers’ revenue is yet to mature in Kenya. Currently, it is supplemented by private and NGO financing in  the country’s mango sector.

One such region in need of financing is the Eastern region that constitutes Machakos and Kitui counties. According to a study that Financial Sector Deepening (FSD) Kenya commissioned, these counties have 91 percent of family growers who supply 80% of the region’s total mango output. They do not have effective production means due to financial restraints.

The study by FSD also paints a picture of disparity between farmers who are financed and those without funding. For instance, Kitui or Machakos family growers without financing only make 52 percent revenue in comparison with their large plantation counterparts who reap 92 percent. This state of affairs even transfers to the suppliers: small exporters only make 17 percent profit yearly while grounded ones make 52 percent yearly revenue.

Some private financing or subsidy system suggestions include an improvised amount of $.6.34M for the region for rotational implement sharing. This credit would supply farmers in this specific region with an ability to spray their crops without missing critical seasons of pest eradication throughout the growth period. The incentive would also eradicate pest-ridden mangos that fetch low prices in the market. There is also an assessment that some $25 million would be necessary to support farmers in the region during the post-harvest routines.

A cautionary tale about farmers’ financing is possible breach of payment. One way out is to tailor the credit schemes in a cooperative approach where farmers receive only what they can be able to repay. There is also the incentive to distribute the capital over a long period or offer a line of credit where farmers borrow only when they need the capital without exceeding a credit cap.

Here is a sample note on the main sources of mango farmers’ financing currently, according to FSD’s field survey in Machakos and Kitui:

•Informal credit accounts for 10.6 percent of financing.

•Banks, microfinance, and cooperatives provide 4.4 percent of all financing.

•Savings which can be personal or cooperate supply the bulk of funding at 85 percent.

The above statistics show a case where most mango farmers rely on themselves to finance their activities. Lack of funds can derail the acquisition of implements such as sprays, pruning tools and labor when the family growers need them most.

A 2011 study in Embu, in upper Eastern mango belt also revealed interesting findings on possible improvements when famers accessed credit. Without credit, a typical mango farmer would reap just 18,678 kilograms of the fruit from one acre. This changed to 121,325 kilograms with the offer of financing, a 549 percent difference. To round the figures off, this meant 326 percent of additional returns for each fruit with every credit offer.

In terms of subsidies, the bulk of Kenya mangos as with other crops, get allocations under the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation. The main offers are non-financial and intermittent. They include free certified seeds and fertilizers. There are also partnerships with international relief providers for subsidization programs.


Therefore, what ails the mango sector is infrastructure underdevelopment, poor storage and marketing finance, among others. Nevertheless, incentives by farmers’ cooperatives has alleviated some of these challenges. For instance in Central Kenya, farmers make chips out of their mango rejects. In Upper and Lower Eastern, family growers gang up to process and dry their fruits with solar dryers and charcoal coolers to prevent losses. With new financing models from informal sources, it is also apparent that a farmer can make a 549 percent difference in yields compared to making do with no such finance. It is therefore a matter of time before the mango sector gets back on track.