Kakamega County has secured a deal to export at least 10 tonnes of fish to Italy every week.
It becomes the first devolved unit to land such a lucrative deal out of the 47 counties in Kenya.
The county administration is banking on the Sh120 million Lutonyi fish processing plant located in Kakamega town.
The factory resumed its operations barely a month after two years of a lull following protracted wrangles among its directors over its daily running and management.
According to the investor in charge of the factory, the DAS Group Chief Executive Officer Samwel Ondieki, the first consignment of fish will leave the country next week.
He said: "We are just waiting for the renewal of the license by the Directorate of Fisheries this week before we embark on business."
The fish processing plant earned international standards certification a couple of weeks ago giving it the green light to process, store and export fish to European countries.
The facility got clearance to serve as a fish aggression, warehousing, and international fish export centre after meeting stipulated European Union standards.
Aquaculture Business Development Programme (ADBP), and International Fund for Agriculture and Development gave the plant the go-ahead to export fish, rating the facility as one of the best fish factories in Kenya in terms of compliance, and it has met all the standards locally and internationally.
Ondieki said the factory has met all the needed requirements and it is waiting for the inspection by the directorate of fisheries before exporting fish.
“We are waiting for the last inspection from the directorate of fisheries to approve the exportation of fish to Italy twice a week and once the directorate approves what we have done in terms of compliance. This is to happen in less than two weeks then we will be exporting our fish in two weeks' time because we have a ready market. What is remaining is just delivery,” said Ondieki.
“We have all the certificates of compliance like warehousing, storage, aggregation, and the needed facilities which need to be renewed yearly and we are only waiting for the directorate of fisheries to approve the certification, “he added.
Ondieki said the factory has expounded on its international market stating that the next destination is Dubai, the UK, and the Netherlands where the fish plant has also secured a ready market and is only awaiting clearance by the directorate of fisheries unlike in Italy where they have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
“In a week's time we will be travelling to Dubai for business engagement, there is a ready market and we are going to finalize our trade ties on the quality and quantity of fish to export,” said Ondieki.
The factory has so far established 27 European countries as its potential market.
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Ondieki said the factory has a wide and large network market locally where they do their supplies.
“We are supplying our fish products across the country with large markets being supermarkets and Nairobi city and we hope to engage more fish farmers to ensure there is an increase in fish production due to the huge demand to meet,” said Ondieki.
The fish factory is currently sourcing its raw products from the 14 counties of the Lake Region Economic Block (LREB).
“We are currently having 1,1000 fish farmers whom we have listed on our program but the number is low and that is why we are working towards bringing more farmers on board by equipping them with requisite skills, training, availing them with fish feeds at a low price and securing a ready market for them in order to reduce the production cost and improve fish production,” he said.
According to Ondieki, the factory is currently processing 15 tonnes of fish per day with the factory having the capacity to process and export 20 tonnes of fish per day with the annual demand for fish projected to be 7,000 tonnes.
The factory has already set up an outlet in Gikomba and that would facilitate their business in the city and outside the country.
“We are getting demand for fish to Nairobi of about 5 tonnes per week and that has made us open our outlet in Gikomba that will enable us to meet the ever-rising demand in Nairobi and the outlet will serve as a good point for our exportation,” said Ondieki.
At least 6,976 farmers from Kakamega County are to benefit from the venture, and there are about 9,988 fish ponds with the potential to produce over 1,798 tonnes of fish in seven months.
The factory is one of the four facilities constructed under the 2008-2012 ESP alongside other fish factories in Meru, Nyeri, and Migori
The county is expected to rake in Sh539 million from this initiative. DAS Group and Kakamega County signed a Memorandum of Understanding where the firm was to run the factory. DAS Group took over the possession of the premises after the county signed a lease agreement on November 3 last year.
Chief Officer for Fisheries Development Jessica Wesonga said they are partnering with international donors like IFAD to ensure at least farmers in each ward have cooperatives and ensure the production cost is low.
“We have factored money into our current budget to train farmers, establish aggregation centres for their fish, give them feeds, fingerlings and pond liners at subsidised cost and ensure we secure for them a ready market,” said Wsonga.