Tana River-based mango pulp manufacturer, Galole Fruit Processing Factory, is back in operation after years of being dormant.
The factory, which has been revived at a cost about Sh67 million, will now diversify its operations, incorporating a Sh5.4 million bottled water processing plant with the capacity to produce 4,500 bottles of water per hour.
The plant, initiated by the Coast Development Authority (CDA), has been dormant for years as the agency struggled to install new machinery. Its revival will open up new opportunities for farmers.
On Saturday, CDA Managing Director Mohammed Keinan said the plant will be crushing a tonne of mangoes per hour, producing 500kg of pulp per tonne.
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"It is faster and stronger in that it will be running 24 hours a day with workers working in shifts," Mr Keinan said on Saturday.
The plant will serve 30,000 mango farmers from Tana River, Lamu and Kilifi counties.
Keinan said 100 people will directly be hired as large-scale production kicks off this season, with another 1,500 set to be absorbed indirectly. The first production line will produce 12,000 metric tonnes of pulp per year.
“We have made a leap from the initial 2,880 tonnes, increasing our output to 40,000 metrics tonnes per year. This will put us ahead of other producers in the region,” said Keinan.
But there are fears that mangoes produced in the three counties may not be enough to support production, fears that Keinan sought to allay.
To support the plant's revival, he said, CDA has come up with more orchards in the region to meet the factory’s mango demands. The parastatal has acquired 300 acres in the county to shore up mango production, with trained farmers put in charge of the farms.
Plant engineer Brett Jhonson said the machine was the second of its kind in the country, with the first one installed by Kerio Valley Development Authority for honey processing.
"This is an absolute boost to the plant and the coast region's economy. With a faster production capacity and relatively cheaper maintenance, we anticipate a smooth running of activities down here," Mr Jhonson said.
The Galole Fruit Processing plant was established in 2012, but mismanagement and corruption led to its collapse a year after it was launched, leaving mango farmers at the mercy of middlemen, who bought their mangoes at Sh2 per fruit compared to CDA'S Sh20 per kilogramme.
Majority of the farmers had resorted to selling their produce in the streets.