Fish farming is set to receive a boost following the launch of a Sh120 million processing plant that caters for counties within the Lake Region Economic Bloc.
The plant located in Lurambi, Kakamega County will buy fish from 14 counties which are to be exported to 27 European Union countries.
While launching the fish processing plant, Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya said his county will support the factory by allocating resources annually to the sector. The factory which was launched on Monday has capacity to export 20 metric tonnes of fish a day.
“We have the capacity to process and export fish to meet the export market demands. But to meet this demand, we have to invest in technology and proper infrastructure,” said Kakamega Fish Factory Chief Executive Officer Samwel Ondiek.
Some 6,976 from Kakamega Country are projected to benefit from this venture. According to the fish factory boss, these farmers with about 9,988 fish ponds have a potential to produce 1,798 metric tonnes of the produce in seven months. The county is expected to rake in Sh539 million from this initiative.
According to governor Oparanya, his administration intends to make the factory viable by investing more in farmers so as to increase produce through subsidizing the fish feed and products.
“We have started the Kakamega County Fish Subsidy programme that operates on a 50-50 cost-sharing basis, meaning fish farmers only pay half the cost of feeds,” said Oparanya.
He said they are going to purchase fish ponds, distribute harvesting nets to farmers and issue motorcycles to the fisheries extension service providers to boost the produce.
“We will support the establishment and registration of 30 aquaculture field schools in collaboration with support from development partners to make fish farming and business attractive and affordable,” said Oparanya.
The governor was speaking during the event attended by Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Caroline Vacini, Cabinet Secretary for Devolution Eugene Wamalwa and six governors from regional bloc. The six were Anyang’ Nyong’ (Kisumu), Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma), Wilbur Ottichillo (Vihiga), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia) and James Ongwae (Kisii).
On their part, the governors pledged to mobilize farmers to form fisheries cooperative societies for aggregation centres and establish designated areas and stalls for fresh fish marketing. CS Wamalwa urged counties to make the business environment conducive so as to attract investors.
Wamalwa further urged farmers to diversify their ventures and embrace fish farming seeing as sugar cane farming in the region has been undergoing numerous challenges.
“Cane farmers should start diversifying in fish produce so as to tap on foreign markets,” said Wamalwa.
“I urge my fellow leaders, especially the political elite, not to politicize development and economic activities to scare away investors and instead urge them to use their positions to bring up more new factories for the benefit of farmers.”
At the same time, Swedish Ambassador Vacini said her government is keen on helping locals to improve their income, particularly aquaculture farming.
Furthermore, she said fish farmers should take advantage of the European Union market of over 27 counties to produce more fish for exportation to improve their livelihood.