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Workers prepare mangoes that are ripe to be dried for preservation at the Cheptebo Mango Value addition factory in Kerio Valley. [Kevin Tunoi/Standard]

Business
Already, a new fruit drying and packaging factory has seen prices improve from Sh3 to Sh12 per fruit.

Two multi-million-shilling factories have been set up in Kerio Valley, Elgeyo Marakwet County to open up mango farming in the drought-prone area.

Last week, the Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) tested a Sh100 million mango juice processing factory at Tot, in Marakwet East Constituency and declared it ready to start operations. 

According to KVDA, the factory will start processing mango juice as soon as the Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) gives the nod.

The project began in 2018.

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“The project had been delayed because of compliance issues. We expect to process about 15 tonnes of mangoes per day as soon as we get the Kebs compliance,” said KVDA Managing Director Sammy Naporos.

Doubled prices

According to Naporos, farmers can expect double the current price for their mangoes as soon as the factory begins processing juice for local and international markets.

Farmers, long exploited by middlemen and brokers, now hope that the two factories will change their fortunes.

"A bag of mangoes currently retails at Sh300, this is exploitative. We are waiting for the mango juice factory to open, because it is a sign that things will be better in the next harvesting season,” said Wilson Kiptoo, a Mango farmer.

SEE ALSO: Hope for mango farmers as two factories are set up

At Cheptebo, Keiyo South Constituency, a Sh13.3 million mango drying factory jointly funded by Japan and local farmers opened mid last month.

The Japanese contributed Sh8.8 million while the farmers contributed Sh4.5m

The factory can process up to 10,000 tonnes of mangoes per year and is expected to put to an end post-harvest losses running to millions of shillings.

It has also been billed as the solution to exploitation by middlemen who have been purchasing mangoes at as low as Sh3 per fruit.

"We have been losing too many mangoes due to lack of markets during the mango season, but now this factory can dry and package mangoes and ensure they are fresh for up six months," said William Kigen, a farmer.

Barely a month into the factory's operations, the price of mangoes in the area has shot to up to Sh12 per fruit. 

“Previously, we had no standard price for our mangoes. We would sell one for as low as Sh3. Now that we are certain that all our mangoes will be sold, the prices have improved,” said Kigen.

Cheptebo Rural Development Centre, through which farmers raised more than Sh4 million for the value addition factory, said 8,000 farmers would benefit from the firm. 

“We encourage mango farmers to register in cooperative societies to benefit from the new factory. 10,000 tonnes of dry mangoes per year is huge market and there is need to capitalise on it,” said Joseph Kimeli, the centre's director.

Handing over the factory to farmers, Japanese Ambassador to Kenya Ryoichi Horie said his government will work with Kenya’s Agriculture ministry to export dry mangoes to Japan.

"There is a huge market in Japan for dry mangoes. I challenge farmers in the drier areas of Elgeyo Marakwet and Baringo to increase production," said the envoy.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos lauded co-operation between local farmers and the Japanese in setting up the factory, saying it was indication of prudent use of money.

“It is incredible that Sh13 million can construct and equip a factory like this one. I will be asking my staff to come here and learn," he said.

With the two factories in place, the next challenge for farmers in the region will be increasing production.


Kerio Valley Mango farming

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