Sh110m factory to boost farming of sweet potatoes
Migori sweet potato farmers are set to benefit from a Sh110 million factory that seeks to ensure value addition.
The county's Agriculture department said the processing plant would increase sweet potato pricing from Sh8 to Sh15 a kilogramme.
The low price of sweet potatoes has negatively impacted farmers in Kuria where a 100kg bag goes for Sh1,600, while a 90kg bag costs Sh900, which is way below their costs of production.
“Our hope was dimmed but now we are confident that we will be getting some good income from sweet potatoes. The processing plant has come at a good time. We are looking forward to a new economic venture,” said Mary Mwita who abandoned tobacco farming for sweet potatoes.
The processing plant at Getonganya in Kuria West is being equipped and is expected to start operations by end of the year. Agriculture Executive Valentine Ogongo said the county produces more than 100,000 tonnes of sweet potatoes every three months.
“When the processing plant starts operations by the end of the year after we have procured a machine that will do value addition for sweet potatoes, more farmers will be needed to venture into sweet potato farming as the demand for the crop will go up,” Ogongo said.
The Sh30 million machine to be installed at the factory will be used to crush the potatoes into powder that can make cakes, puree, pastry and chips.
By creating value addition for sweet potatoes, the county intends to cut out brokers who buy potatoes directly from farmers at throwaway prices.
The county government relaunched the building of the sweet potato processing plant in April 2019 after its construction failed to kick off in April 2018. Ogongo said the European Union funded the construction of the processing plant.
“We are looking forward to having our sweet potatoes bought. We have been making losses as we get frustrated by middlemen who sometimes demand that we sell our sweet potatoes at cheaper prices,” said Peter Marwa, a farmer.
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The county intends to help farmers join a co-operative to sell their produce and get inputs and loans. In December, Governor Okoth Obado launched a Sh100 million project at Lower Kuja Irrigation Scheme to boost production of quality sweet potato seedlings for farmers.
The scheme is funded by the National Irrigation Board, World Bank and the county government.