Pain for farmers as potato factory's doors remain shut

A man carrying a sack of sweet potatoes. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Migori County’s Sh117m Getong’anya sweet potato processing factory’s gates have remained closed since it was launched in March.

It is a situation that has dimmed the hopes of 750 farmers to access a direct market for their produce. The sweet potato farmers who have since decried harassment from middlemen had shifted from Tobacco farming with hopes of having the plant opened.

“It has remained closed and we have been left in the hands of middlemen who are harassing us,” Samson Wankuru who is the manager of Kuria West Sweet Potato Sacco said.

Sospeter Rioba who is a sweet potato farmer with a five-acre land said he has now been forced to sell his produce for as low as Sh1,800 for two sacks. According to Rioba, the middlemen would insist on taking only medium-sized tubers hence getting a loss. The farmers lamented that despite getting quality sweet potato vines which mature for only three months, they are yet to see the benefit of sweet potato farming. According to the farmers, the plant has now become a centre where “officials come with cameras and close the door”.

The factory located at Kuria West Sub-County and can process over 100 tonnes of sweet potatoes daily is a collaboration between the European Union and the county government where they contributed Sh110m and Sh7.07m respectively.

It was commissioned by the then Devolution Cabinet Secretary, Eugene Wamalwa in March last year. It was to help improve the livelihoods of locals by enabling them access direct market for their potatoes at better prices. The plant was to employ 300 people directly and another 5,000 indirectly upon completion, which is yet to be done.  

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