State firm invests Sh300 million in Nicholas Biwott-owned tea factory

Organic Growers and Packers (EPZ) Ltd promoter Haren Patel (left) and ICDC Board members led by Chairman Martin Muragu (3rd left) are taken through the manufacture and packaging of mango and banana puree for export at the factory in Malindi County. ICDC has part-financed the factory.

NAIROBI: A Government investment firm has pumped Sh300 million into a tea factory owned by former politician Nicholas Biwott.

Industrial & Commercial Development Corporation (ICDC) expects to commission Sisibo Tea Factory in October in a joint deal with Mr Biwott.

The tea factory, which is based in Keiyo, Elgeyo Marakwet County, is expected to boost tea production in the area, where farmers currently have to transport their harvest over 100 kilometres to the closest factory in Nandi County.

“Farmers in the area have taken to growing tea but they have to transport their tea to the closest factory in Nandi. By the time they get to the factory, the tea has lost some quality and this has had an impact on their earnings,” said ICDC Acting Executive Director Kennedy Wanderi.

ICDC has also invested Sh250 million in a new fruit processing company in Malindi, expected to boost the production of mangoes. The State-owned investment firm told The Standard that the plant will formally be commissioned next week.

It is among several processing plants funded by the original owner of listed investment firm Centum.

“Having a factory in Malindi has provided ready market for the smallholder farmers who have for years had to settle for minimal returns from their mangoes and are paid immediately for their produce. This is improving livelihoods for farmers and provided the people with impetus to look after their trees, grow more as they have a ready market,” said Wanderi.

Ready market

The Government-owned development financing lender is a major shareholder in both the fruit processing firm called Organic Growers and Packers EPZ Ltd, and Sisibo Tea Factory.

Organic Growers processes mango and banana puree and is expected to significantly change the socio-economics of Malindi by offering a ready market for fruit growers in the region.

“An interesting aspect to this plant is that there is no waste: the peelings and seeds from mangoes are recycled to make briquettes that are used as energy sources for the factory.”

The plant has a capacity to produce 36,000 metric tonnes of fruit puree that is sold in the export markets. “It’s an EPZ company that focuses on export markets. There is a ready market that we are at the moment not able to satisfy but will with time meet the demand,” said Wanderi.

He noted that ICDC has made major investments in the manufacturing sector but is now stepping up investments in agro processing, adding that that there is massive untapped potential in the sub-sector.

ICDC has played a significant role as a lead investor in the creation of many of Kenya’s companies, some well-known and listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange. These include Centum Investments Ltd, Uchumi Supermarkets Ltd and Eveready (EA) Ltd as well as other companies like General Motors E.A. Ltd, Development Bank of Kenya Ltd, IDB Capital Ltd, Kenya Wine Agencies Ltd, Firestone (E. A) Ltd (Now Yana Tyres Ltd) and National Airport Services (NAS) (now Servair-NAS Ltd).

Others are East African Industries (now Unilever (EA) Ltd) and Minet ICDC Insurance Co Ltd (now AoN Insurance), just but a few of the full list.