Inside the Lucrative Hustle of Bixa ‘Lipstick Plant’ Farming in Kenya

In recent years, Kenyans from different age groups have resorted to farming to make ends meet and produce food amid the current tough economic times.

However, with the increasing population, a few Kenyans lack the land to undertake the kind of farming they would desire or grow particular crops.

In such situations, some people focus on plants that do not need much land to cultivate. This includes herbs, spices, and fruits. Another plant that does well in limited space is the Bixa tree or mrangi, a rare plant that was introduced to Kenya in the 70s.

Kenya is among the major exporters of Bixa in the world. Peru leads the list of Bixa exporters globally—Kenya exports to Denmark, the USA, Japan, China and the UK.

A photo of a Bixa Orellana tree


plant info

Bixa has various applications including; as an insect repellent, to cure digestive illness, reduce inflammation, treating hepatitis among other medical uses. It is also used to make a natural dye used in manufacturing cosmetics.

Bixa farming is popular on the Coast where the conditions are favourable. It requires frost frost-free, warm, humid climate and a sunny location to thrive.

According to Stephen Gambo an Agriculture Manager at Kenya Bixa Limited, in one acre of land, a farmer can plant 160 trees and each tree will produce 20 kilograms of Bixa, totalling 3,200 kilograms.

One kilo of Bixa goes for between Ksh45 to Ksh70 earning a farmer about over Ksh200,000 per harvest.  

The crop matures fully after three years and the farmer can begin harvesting from the third year. The plants can keep producing for eight to 20 years if the farm is well managed.

Despite the high returns, farmers across the country have been demanding an increase in the pricing to match market rates in other African countries.

Farmers have been complaining that they only get Ksh500 for a kilo of dried Bixa seeds while their counterparts in South Africa get Ksh1,000. This has led to them demanding Ksh1,500 for a kilo of dried Bixa seeds.

The government through the Ministry of Agriculture has put in place measures to protect farmers from brokers and cartels.

How to Grow

Kenyans interested in the business can buy seeds. Then plant the seeds in a nursery at a spacing of 25 centimeters by 10 centimetres.

After 10 days, the seed will germinate. Farmers should then let it grow in the nursery for four more months before transferring it to the farm.

Gambo advises that farmers should do a spacing of five meters by five meters to avoid overcrowding. As the plant matures, farmers should weed, and prune as required before harvesting season.

Agribusiness Manager at Kenya Bixa Limited Stephen Gambo


Stephen Gambo

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