Potato farmers in Migori County have received a major boost following the establishment of a Sh110 million sweet potato processing plant.
Getonganya sweet potato processing plant with a capacity to process over 100 tones of potatoes per day is meant to encourage value addition.
Governor Ochilo Ayacko while launching the factory said his government will start buying sweet potatoes from farmers in the region.
The County Chief vowed to ensure farmers are paid promptly and according to the inputs they have placed in the production of sweet potatoes.
Ayacko directed the Department of Trade in his administration to disburse Sh1 million towards the project to enable farmers to grow sweets with ease.
Following the launch, operations began at the plant as workers started processing loads of sweet potatoes transported from various farms within the county.
The project is a collaboration between the European Union and the Migori County with both having contributed Sh110 million and Sh7.07 million respectively towards the initiative.
It will help improve the livelihoods of locals by enabling them to access the direct market for their potatoes at better prices and has so far employed close to 300 people directly and another 5,000 indirectly.
Migori is listed as the second-largest producer of Orange-fleshed sweet potato (OFSP) with 11,312 hectares under cultivation after Homa Bay with 24,268 hectares under cultivation.
Kuria region has about 6,500 farmers who produce close to 0.3 million tonnes of sweet potatoes per year.
The growing of sweet potatoes had become unattractive to farmers in the region due to the lack of market and exploitative brokers.
Miriam Matiko, a farmer said she got trained on how she could add value to her sweet potatoes and generate income through the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP).
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The mother of five says she is now able to get money to lease land for farming. She is hopeful that when she harvests her sweet potatoes this season, she will now be able to get profit from it.
"Middlemen used to come and would insist on being given two full sacks for Sh3, 000, and for lack of other option, I would sell them," Matiko said.
The farmers hope the factory will offer a ready market. "The long wait has finally come to a close. We have been suffering in the hands of middlemen," Samson Wankuru who is the manager of Kuria West Sweet Potato Sacco said.
Sospeter Rioba, a sweet potato farmer with a five-acre land said he has always been forced to sell his produce for as low as Sh1,800 for two sacks. According to Rioba, the middlemen would insist on taking only medium-sized tubers hence handing the farmers huge losses.