Mango farmers have a reason to celebrate after Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) completed a Sh60 million processing plant.
The development is a reprieve for mango producers, who have been incurring heavy losses due to poor marketing strategies aggravated by poor road network linking Endo, Sambirir, Arror and Soy producing zones and market centres.
Other challenges the farmers face include fruits going to waste while those that reach the market fetch poor prices due to poor quality after hours of transport hitches.
Middlemen have been exploiting desperate farmers, buying their mangoes for as little as Sh100 per sack instead of Sh1,000 at the minimum.
The factory, with a capacity of processing over 24 tonnes of mangoes a day, will offer farmers the much-needed reprieve. The plant stationed at Tot in Marakwet East begins operations in the next three weeks.
Engineers from England are finalising installing the machinery and conducting test runs.
Kevin Kemboi, a mango farmer, said despite the region producing some of the juiciest mangoes the locals have nothing to show for it.
“We usually experience a glut each season which gives an opportunity to middlemen and traders to buy the produce at poor prices further pushing the farmers into misery. But now that the factory is complete, we are sure we will reap better returns from the value-added mangoes,” said Mr Kemboi.
Pius Kipkeu, another farmer, is elated.
“I am among the pioneers of mango farming in Kerio Valley but for all the decades in the farm, my life has never changed for the better. This factory is a godsend to us because we will receive better returns for our produce and turn around our lives,” said Mr Kipkeu.
Kipkeu said the farmers should aim to increase the acreage under the fruits to ensure the factory operates at optimum capacity, even off-season.
Mokoro Chief Justine Yego praised the factory as a game changer in the region that has been infamous for cattle rustling.
“This factory will give the locals an opportunity to diversify into fruit farming away from traditional livestock farming that has been a source of insecurity in Kerio Valley,” said the administrator.
According to Alvan Blanch Company Limited Project Manager Guy Blanch, the processing plant will turn the mangoes into concentrate juice and pastes.
“A majority of farmers export raw products, making them not benefit from the value chain but this factory will turn around their fortunes. The plant also has the capacity to process pawpaws and watermelons which I have been informed do well in the Kerio Valley,” said Mr Blanch.
David Kimosop, the KVDA managing director, said the challenge is now on the farmers to increase production by planting more varieties of high quality mangoes to meet the international standards.
“We expect farmers to get more than Sh200 million annually at the optimum capacity of the plant and our focus is to cushion farmers against losses through adding value to their fruits,” said Mr Kimosop.
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