The county government of Elgeyo Marakwet is banking on a proposed Sh2 billion processing plant to stabilise prices of potatoes.
The factory, which is expected to be up and running within six months, is a partnership between the UK and Select Fresh Produce Kenya Limited, a local grower and exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables. The project will be implemented through the Sustainable Urban Economic Development Programme (SUED) of the UK, in collaboration with Iten municipality.
After signing a deal with an investor on Tuesday, Governor Wesly Korir said the processing plant will also save farmers from exploitation by middlemen. “I am confident that the project will end the exploitation of potato farmers by middlemen who have been buying fresh produce at low prices and selling it at higher prices,” said the governor.
Rotich added: “The economy of Elgeyo Marakwet is 95 per cent dependent on agriculture. I am confident that in six months, we will be able to transform the economic well-being of our people through value addition, thanks to this plant.”
Potato prices have been fluctuating with a bag of produce selling at as low as Sh400 during harvest seasons.
The factory is set to process 60 tonnes of potatoes annually. This is also expected to reduce post-harvest losses and provide ready off-take of potatoes, guaranteeing steady farm prices for the over 10,000 smallholder potato farmers in Elgeyo Marakwet and the region.
Speaking in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, the British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott said the project will also enhance the existing farmer co-operative societies by providing the necessary training and capacity building to farmers on better farming methods.
“Smallholder farmers are particularly affected by the harsh realities of the changing weather patterns and unstable prices for their produce. This is why today, I am delighted to announce a new Sh2 billion investment by Select Fresh in partnership with the UK government to finance the first potato processing factory in Elgeyo Marakwet,” Mariott said.
The envoy said the plant will guarantee stable income for potato farmers. “The UK is proud to be supporting agricultural productivity and delivery of the bottom-up economic model here on the ground in the North Rift,” she said.
Select Fresh CEO Eunice Mutua said the plant would process both Irish and sweet potatoes, adding that county government will also provide extension services to farmers.