County bid to boost tomato production ahead of new factory

A farmer is being taken through training on post-harvest handling of tomatoes on September 29, 2021. The training was meant to help them prevent losses. [Muriithi Mugo, Standard]

Providing farmers with seedlings and helping them construct greenhouses are among the measures the county government of Kirinyaga is taking to increase the production of tomatoes.

Governor Anne Waiguru said they want to get local farmers ready to supply the produce to a tomato processing factory at the upcoming Sagana Agro-Industrial City.

The local government has already helped 69 farmers to construct greenhouses and propagate high-yielding, disease-tolerant tomato varieties to scale up production.

Kirinyaga produces about 60,000 tonnes of tomatoes earning farmers around Sh1.6 billion annually.

Through Wezesha Programme, more than 2,000 farmers have been supported to plant an additional 1.1 million seedlings and increase land under tomatoes to an extra 122 acres. This has increased production by an extra 11,000 tonnes.

Ms Waiguru said the farmers will be the major beneficiaries of the upcoming agro-industrial city as they will have a ready market for their produce.

"Our farmers will additionally be saved from post-harvest losses and reap more from value addition," she said.

Through Tomato Growers Cooperative Societies, farmers will be able to aggregate and negotiate better prices for their produce. They will also be trained and made part of the supply chain of the tomato factory.

Kirinyaga governor Anne Waiguru buys tomatoes at a market at Makutano on November 23 last year. [File, Standard]

James Muriithi, one of the beneficiaries of the tomato project, said they are expecting a bumper harvest in the next two months.

Muriithi, the chairperson of Mwihotori Kerugoya Youth Group, added: "Currently, the crop which is under the group project, is at the fruiting stage. Members have also replicated the project in their private farms by utilizing the knowledge gained from the programme."

He said that while they are currently relying on markets in Kerugoya and surrounding towns, members are anticipating better returns once a processing factory is up and running.

Muriithi noted that members of his group previously used traditional farming methods that were not only expensive but did not guarantee them a good harvest. Diseases and pests would also destroy the crop.

“The advantage of greenhouse farming is that the tomatoes are protected from diseases and pests thus reducing the need to use herbicides and pesticides and eventually reducing cost of production,” he said.

Mr Michael Njue said he has been supported in seedling propagation. He runs a seedlings propagation enterprise in Kimbimbi, Mwea, where he established a greenhouse.