Irish potato farmers in Meru, Kenya, have been urged to utilise a 250- tonne cold storage facility whose construction is set for completion in March.
The facility being built at a cost of Sh100 million at Ngusishi in Buuri West is meant to help farmers cut on post-harvest losses as well as earn better prices for their produce.
The CEO of Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA), Mr. Mwenda Rithaa, said the facility will help farmers to ward off middlemen who have over the years taken advantage of the highly perishable produce to deny them favourable prices.
He said the cooling facility would hold produce for up to eight months until farmers obtained favourable prices.
“This is part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big four agenda on food security. Once a farmer brings their produce to the cold store, they will be given a voucher upon which they can access loans. Currently, farmers lose more than 30 percent of their potatoes after harvest,” Mr. Rithaa said.
He said farmers would utilise the facility through cooperatives which can also attract other partners to provide inputs, financial well as extension services.
Mr. Rithaa said MSEA intends to facilitate value addition targeting various agricultural produce across the country.
“We also intend to support dairy, poultry, cereals, and horticultural farmers to earn more money from their ventures,” he said.
MSEA Board chairman Charles Waithaka said phase two of the programme will bring in investors who can venture into potato value addition and certified seed multiplication.
“The area around the cold store will be opened up as an industrial zone for various products. This will translate to more money to the farmer and boost food security and economy of the region,” Mr. Waithaka said.
According to the Meru County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2018-2022, the county produced 196,434 tonnes of potatoes valued at more than Sh5 billion.
As a result, Meru farmers lose more than Sh1.8 billion every year due to a lack of cold storage facilities.