Barley Farming in Kenya

ByElijah Ludenyi

Apr 8, 2023
Barley Farming in Kenya

Last updated on March 2nd, 2024 at 05:53 pm

Kenya is known for its agricultural diversity, with various crops grown across the country. One such crop that has gained popularity among farmers is barley. Barley farming is a crucial economic activity in Kenya, providing food for both humans and animals.

This blog post delves into the different aspects of barley farming in Kenya, including understanding the crop, its profitability, starting a barley farming business, best practices for successful farming, and the associated challenges.

Read Also: Beginner’s Guide to Lettuce Farming in Kenya

Understanding Barley Farming

Barley, an annual cereal grain belonging to the grass family, is primarily grown in temperate regions but can also be cultivated in tropical regions like Kenya.

Barley is a versatile crop with several uses, such as brewing beer, making whiskey, animal feed, and human food.

It is highly nutritious, containing high levels of protein, fiber, and vitamins.

In Kenya, two primary types of barley are grown: malting barley and feed barley. Malting barley is grown primarily for the beer industry, while feed barley is used as animal feed.

Malting barley has strict quality requirements, such as low protein levels, high starch content, and good germination rates, as it is used in beer production.

Barley is a resilient crop that can grow in different soil types, but it thrives in well-drained loamy soils with a pH of between 6.0 and 7.5. The crop requires moderate rainfall, between 500mm and 700mm, and a temperature range of 10-25 degrees Celsius. Farmers typically plant barley during the rainy season and harvest it after 3-4 months.

Barley farming is essential in Kenya due to its various uses and high nutritional value. The following section explores the profitability of barley farming in Kenya and the market for barley in the country.

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Barley Farming Business in Kenya

Kenya is a major producer of barley in East Africa, and barley farming is a lucrative business in the country. The crop is in high demand for various purposes, including beer brewing, animal feed, and food processing, both locally and internationally.

Profitability of Barley Farming in Kenya

With a short maturity period of about 3-4 months, farmers can plant and harvest barley multiple times in a year, making it a profitable venture. Depending on the variety and farming practices, barley yields can range from 2 to 3.5 tonnes per hectare. At current market prices, farmers can earn between Ksh. 50,000 to Ksh. 150,000 per hectare.

Market for Barley in Kenya

The main buyers of barley in Kenya are beer manufacturers such as East African Breweries Limited (EABL) and Kenya Breweries Limited. Other buyers include animal feed manufacturers, food processing companies, and individual farmers who use barley for livestock feed.

Challenges and Risks Associated with Barley Farming in Kenya

However, barley farming in Kenya is not without its challenges. Unpredictable weather patterns, pests and diseases, high input costs, and lack of access to credit facilities are some of the challenges faced by farmers. Additionally, farmers who are not part of a cooperative may struggle to find a market for their produce.

To mitigate these risks, farmers are advised to use good farming practices, such as crop rotation, use of certified seeds, and soil management practices. Cooperatives can also help farmers access markets and negotiate better prices for their produce.

Overall, barley farming in Kenya presents a viable business opportunity for farmers. With the growing demand for beer in the region, the demand for barley is expected to increase. However, farmers must be aware of the risks and challenges associated with the business and take necessary measures to mitigate them.

Also Read: How to Start a Successful Grapes Business

Kenya has great potential for a profitable barley farming business. If you plan to start such a business, there are important steps you need to take for success;

Step 1: Conduct Market Research

Researching the market for barley is essential before planting. According to a United Nations report, Kenya is a net importer of barley, with high demand from the brewing industry, animal feed manufacturers, and food processors.

You must investigate the current market price for barley to determine profitability. As of March 2023, the average market price for a kilogram of barley in Kenya is KES 50 ($0.45 USD), although prices vary depending on quality and demand.

Step 2: Secure Land and Equipment

The next step is to secure land and invest in equipment and inputs like seed, fertilizers, and herbicides.

Barley thrives in cool, high-altitude areas with well-draining soil, and leasing or purchasing land in regions like Nakuru, Laikipia, and Uasin Gishu is ideal.

A study by the International Journal of Science and Research estimates the average cost of inputs for barley farming in Kenya at KES 19,000 ($170 USD) per acre.

The cost of equipment, such as tractors and planters, varies depending on whether you choose to buy or lease.

Step 3: Follow Best Practices for Barley Farming

Following best practices for barley farming is vital for success. Crop rotation, soil management, and pest and disease control are important practices to consider.

Crop rotation involves growing different crops in the same field in consecutive seasons to maintain soil fertility and prevent soil-borne diseases.

Barley grows well with legumes like beans and peas. Soil management is another essential aspect of barley farming. Barley requires well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, which should be tested and amended if necessary.

Pest and disease control is critical for successful barley farming. Common pests and diseases in barley include aphids, leaf rust, and powdery mildew, and it is essential to monitor crops and use appropriate pesticides and fungicides.


Barley farming in Kenya is a potentially lucrative venture. By conducting market research, securing land and equipment, and following best practices for barley farming, you can increase your chances of success. Given the growing demand for barley in Kenya, investing in this crop could be a wise decision.

Barley Farming Best Practices in Kenya

In Kenya, growing a successful barley farm requires farmers to implement good farming practices, proper management, and high-quality inputs. This section outlines some of the best practices that farmers should adopt to achieve this.

Crop rotation

Crop rotation is essential for maintaining soil health and preventing soil-borne diseases. Farmers should rotate barley with other crops like legumes, cereals, and vegetables, with a recommended three-year rotation cycle.

This helps to replenish soil nutrients, reduce weed growth, and minimize pest and disease buildup.

Soil Management

Soil management is critical for any crop’s success, and regular soil testing is recommended to determine nutrient levels. Based on the results, farmers should apply fertilizers accordingly and also use organic manure to improve soil fertility and structure.

Pest and Disease Control Measures

Pests and diseases pose significant threats to barley farming in Kenya, and farmers should take appropriate measures to control them.

Common pests include aphids, armyworms, cutworms, and termites. Farmers can use chemical pesticides or biological control methods like natural predators to control pests.

Diseases such as leaf rust, powdery mildew, and smut can be prevented by planting disease-resistant barley varieties, using clean seeds, and practicing crop rotation. Fungicides and other control measures can also be used when necessary.

In conclusion, farmers should prioritize crop rotation, soil management, and pest and disease control measures to achieve sustainable and profitable barley farming in Kenya. By adopting these best practices, they can increase yields and maximize profits.