Farmers are banking on the completion of two processing plants in Kisii; avocado and banana to end their woes of making huge losses.
The two plants at the Kisii Agricultural College (ATC) could set off an industrial revolution and spur improved economic growth in the region that two years ago saw the closure of the beverage company; Coca Cola factory in Kisii town.
For decades, a good share of their produce has been going to waste for lack of market and a major challenge in dealing with middlemen fleecing them.
Some farmers who have already ventured into growing bananas and avocados on large scale anticipate the big payout in a county that majorly relies on agriculture for its economy.
Julius Miyienda, a banana farmer from Bobasi, said that they have high expectations of having a ready market with the completion of the processing plant.
“We have been patient enough thanks to the county government and donors. We are assured of better earnings and employment opportunities. We have been losing millions to brokers for years,” said Miyienda.
Another banana farmer, James Mokua called on the county government to issue more seedlings to farmers in a bid to increase production and sustain the factory. “We don’t want to have a situation where the factory will close down for lack of raw materials.”
Plans to construct the two processing plants came six years after similar efforts to put up an avocado factory failed to take off in 2014 when the county flagged off 30 metric tonnes of avocado oil that were destined for Mexico’s cosmetic industry.
The avocado oil was produced by Old Land Trade Company, an Australian firm that closed down soon after it opened doors for farmers in 2014.
In 2015, the government supplied one million free Hass variety avocado seedlings to farmers to boost avocado production and earn farmers better income.
The Sh170 million banana factory is co-funded by the European Union (Sh110 million) will also offer a value addition chain besides giving farmers a ready market for the crop. Kisii County funded the project at Sh60 million as well as providing land.
Kisii Governor James Ongwae explained that the county currently produces 350,000 metric tonnes of bananas annually with most of them being sold outside the county. “The construction of the factory would be a major milestone to our present and future generations.”
He explained that these are key projects, infrastructure and ingredients to unlocking the economic potential of the region.
In Kitutu Chache North the County and KTDA cofounded Sombogo factory is also completed with locals awaiting the installation of machines to begin processing tea.
In 2015, the county government agreed to fund the project at Sh 30 million, money KTDA had requested farmers to pay.
At least 3,000 metric tonnes are sold outside the county per week which translates to around 150,000 metric tonnes with around 200,000 metric tonnes remaining sold locally earning local farmers very little money.
By Frank Akunga