1 August 2011

Kenya: Regions Groan Under Bumper Harvest

Prices of fresh produce have dropped drastically in Nyandarua and Laikipia counties following a bumper harvest.

Farmers are in a rush to get rid of perishable foods as any delay means they rot on farms since growers do not have coolers to preserve the harvest.

A Nation tour of the area yesterday showed there was a glut of crops like Irish potatoes, cabbages, kales, green peas and French beans.

The ongoing rains in the area have hastened maturity.

Potatoes, which had been fetching Sh6,500 for a 180 kilogramme sack have plunged to Sh1,500, resulting in residents abandoning their favourite maize-based diet.

Food vendors have also slashed prices, with French fries selling for as low as Sh20 a plate from the Sh80 it fetched two months ago.

Cabbages, which had been selling at between Sh50 and Sh70 each, have dropped to between Sh5 and Sh10 each.

Farmers ferrying their harvest to markets on donkey-drawn carts, bicycles, matatus and trucks are a common sight on roads.

On Monday, Nyandarua North district agricultural officer Joseph Mutuma said residents of Ndaragwa and Wiyumiririe would benefit when a modern market the government is building is completed in three months.

The Sh26 million fresh produce market with cold storage and processing facilities, is expected to improve farmers' earnings by reducing their reliance on middlemen to buy their produce.

Middlemen are notorious for exploiting farmers by paying little for their produce and selling it at markets in Nakuru, Nairobi, Naivasha and Mombasa at a huge profit.

Apart from cold storage rooms, the market would also have loading and parking bays as well as a sheltered wholesale and an additional 50 stalls for dry cereals.

"The market will not only benefit farmers but the entire community as it will create employment and open avenues for the establishment of other related businesses such as transport.

"It will also open an avenue for farmers' groups to start value addition ventures," Mr Mutuma said.

Form self-help groups

Food processing companies are expected to form the bulk of the customers at the market as they seek to satisfy local and international markets.

Mr Mutuma urged farmers to form self-help groups that will help them bargain for better prices for their produce once the market opens.

He said contract farming was quickly gaining ground in the area, with several farmers' groups clinching lucrative contracts to grow peas, beans and tree tomato for the export market.

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