Agricultural counties to reap big from State-backed industrial parks

Kirinyaga County Trade CEC Calbert Njeru (centre) with county officials, Ministry of Trade, EPZA and Arise IIP representatives during a site visit of the Sagana Agro Industrial Park last week. [courtesy]

Farmers will now be able to aggregate their crops and access proper storage and processing facilities as they source for direct market to processors or exporters.

This is through the proposed County Aggregation and Industrial Parks (CAIPs) set to be established in the counties to address post-harvest losses, which force farmers to sell their produce cheaply to brokers or feed the surplus to animals.

Such losses apply mainly to farmers dealing in produce with a short shelf life, such as tomatoes, avocadoes, bananas and milk.

Council of Governors (CoG) Chair Anne Waiguru said CAIPs are designed to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to engage in significant domestic and international trade through export diversification and value addition.

“This creates a great opportunity to grow jobs along the various value chains, raise incomes and close rural-urban inequality gaps as locals also participate in the global supply chain through value addition,” said Waiguru.

Aggregation centres

The Kirinyaga governor added that some counties started getting ready for the establishment of industrial parks through initiatives such as constructing aggregation centres for agricultural produce as well as organising farmers into groups or cooperatives for group marketing.

Kirinyaga has already prepared the land on which the CAIP will be developed. The county government has also allocated Sh275 million in the next financial year’s budget for the development of the industrial park.

This money will be complemented by another Sh250 million grant from the national government.

Being predominantly an agricultural county, the Kirinyaga county government has been supporting farmers to increase agricultural production and mobilising them to form groups and cooperatives to enable group marketing. Her model involves enabling export that is facilitated by the aggregation of produce by the farmers themselves.

The county government has set up aggregation centres for produce such as tomatoes, avocados and bananas, with the requisite amenities to support post-harvest management before being collected for processing.

A fish aggregation centre is also being developed as the county – which is a top fishpond aquaculture producer – readies itself for fish processing. Among the processing factories expected to be set up at the Sagana CAIP are for avocado, macadamia, tomatoes, fish and milk.

Trade and Investment Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria has held sessions with the county governments, local investors, international development agencies and partners to lobby for support for the development of the industrial parks. “We need to move from entertaining software to pragmatic hardware,” he said in one of the stakeholders’ meetings.

The CS noted that CAIPS will need support in infrastructure development, market linkages for exports, investment promotion, incubation centres in all 47 counties and logistics, among others.

He said that through CAIPS, rural farmers will be able to access the export market without necessarily travelling out of the country yet they will be the main beneficiaries of their produce.

The Ministry of Trade has been mandated with the development of new export processing zones (EPZs) in Busia, Nakuru, Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Uasin Gishu counties in line with the government’s agenda to increase local manufacturing.

Last week, governors and their technical teams undertook a site visit by Arise Integrated Industrial Platforms (Arise IIP), a potential developer of the EPZs for data collection.

Arise IIP designs, finances and operates industrial ecosystems across Africa. The pan-African developer identifies industrial gaps in African countries and designs tailor-made solutions to enable the sustainable and local transformation of raw materials, boost exports and promote trade.

Kenya’s agricultural sector is the backbone of the economy, contributing about 33 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employing over 40 per cent of the total population.

With the industrial parks, counties are set to the new frontiers of investment and economic development through increased national productivity and sustainable diversification of production.

Through CAIPS, the State will support the establishment of industrial ventures through the construction of industrial parks, and the disbursement of research and development grants. CAIPs are set to help counties transition from agricultural to agro-industrial economies.

Agricultural producers will reap big from value addition and processing that will enable direct sales to markets within and outside the country through organised marketing logistics at the industrial parks.

President William Ruto’s commitment to the implementation of the business climate reforms agenda builds the confidence of investors in the industrial parks. The Head of State has said many jobs will be created along the various value chains at the industrial parks, including the processing and packaging of coffee for local and export markets.

As an incentive, Dr Ruto has removed taxes on the importation of packaging materials so that exporters can manufacture their products in the country, which means more money into the farmers’ pockets as well as more job opportunities.

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