18 February 2018

Kenya: U.S. Firm, Nyandarua Factory Deal Gives Potato Farmers Hope

A business partnership between an export company based in the United States and a Sh1.2 billion horticultural processing factory in Nyandarua has re-energised farmers in the region.

Officially opened in 2004 by then Cabinet Minister for Agriculture Kipruto arap Kirwa, Midland horticultural processing factory nearly collapsed due to years of mismanagement.

Farmers lost confidence in the facility, opting to sell their potatoes to exploitative brokers.

The partnership between the factory and Silva International, a Chicago-based wholesaler and supplier of dehydrated fruit and vegetables, guarantees the farmers improved income throughout the year, through diversification of farm produce, from traditional potato processing to include vegetables like carrots, spinach, kales among others, according to the manager, Mr Paul Mutembei

It is also venturing into quality animal feeds production from processed horticultural by products.

"The biggest challenge we face is that the local potato does not meet standards required by our customers.

"The poor quality is due to growing of the same crop over the years without rotation with other crops thus compromising both quality and quantity," Mr Mutembei said.

PAYMENT

"Introduction of the vegetable processing section will encourage farmers to practice crop rotation," he said.

A farmer, Mr Jacob Kamande, is optimistic that the potato growers would reap maximum benefits from the new partnership.

"Diversification to vegetable processing is a big advantage to us. It will enable me practice crop rotation in my one-acre farm and still earn from the vegetables," Mr Kamande said.

He is among the few farmers who sold their potato to the factory at Sh25 per kilo, compared to a majority of growers who sold to brokers at Sh600 per 150kg bag at peak season earning as little as four shillings per kilo of Irish potato.

The farmer appeals to the factory management to consider advancing payments to farmers to help improve production activities.

The factory chairperson Ms Mary Kiarie, is positive that with the ongoing farmer training and equipment servicing, the deal would be operationalised in two months.

"It's upon the farmers to pull up their socks. They have a ready market for their produce so long as they meet our customers' set standards. We have teamed up with them to meet those standards," Ms Kiarie said.

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