Mango subsidy earns Murang’a accolades
The decision by Murang’a Governor Irungu Kang’ata to subsidise mango production earned the county accolades during the first national mango conference in Makueni County.
The subsidy, which sees farmers earn an extra Sh5 from the devolved government for every kilo of mangoes sold to selected processors, featured prominently at the three-day fair.
The event attracted mango farmers, traders and other players.
“The subsidy is anchored in law to drive up investments geared towards ensuring farmers have a guaranteed return on their harvests,” Murang’a Agriculture executive Kirangai Kamau told Seeds of Gold at the expo two weeks ago.
“We are promoting market linkages and have identified processors and negotiated a minimum price. Initially, mangoes went for Sh3 a kilo. It is now Sh16. Additionally, the county gives farmers Sh5 for every kilo of mangoes sold.”
He added that the subsidy enhances profits in mango enterprises by cushioning farmers from high input costs.
“We deliver the fruits in bulk and are aggregating them through a cooperative society for lower Murang’a, which has around 1,500 members,” Kamau added.
Themed “Winning Markets for Kenyan Mangoes by Building Resilience and Competitive Mango Value Chain”, the expo came as farmers are also grappling with losses caused by pests, drought and lack of markets.
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) says, farmers lose more than 40 per cent of their harvested mangoes. It attributes the losses to attacks by fruit flies and lack of storage facilities.
Kephis and USAID have launched a drive to eradicate fruit flies in mango growing zones.
Agriculture and Food Authority Board chairman, Cornelly Serem, said the government would set up a cold store at the heart of the Makueni mango belt.
According to the Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD), Makueni is the biggest producer of mangoes in Kenya. The county produces 30 per cent of mangoes sold in the country.
“Makueni earned Sh4.2 billion from mango production in 2021, accounting for 34 per cent of the Sh12.2 billion country’s production,” HCD says.
At Iviani Farm in King’uutheni village, Faith Mumo harvests rain water to grow mangoes throughout the year.
The young farmer has created jobs by processing mangoes into crisps, which she exports to Europe and South Africa.
Opportunities in value-addition notwithstanding, some Makueni farmers are cutting down their mango trees, citing low returns.
Makueni Agriculture director Mary Muteti said the county government has learnt a lot from Murang’a.
“Though Murang’a does not grow as much mangoes as we do, the cooperative society is strong. We are considering taking our societies to Murang’a for benchmarking,” she said.
Though a processor the county government set up in 2018 has helped stabilise prices, Agriculture executive Joyce Mutua says farmers are still being exploited by middlemen. She called on MCAs, MPs and senators to come up with laws that will tame brokers.
Makueni Governor Mutula Kilonzo Jr urged the state to create a fund to support mango producers.
“The government has sidelined mango farmers for long, focusing on coffee, tea, sugarcane, miraa and other crops,” the governor said.
He advised farmers not to cut down mango trees, saying the sector has a bright future.
Mr Kilonzo promised to initiate talks at the Council of Governors aimed at bringing together mango-producing counties to form a caucus that will enhance their bargaining power.
A Kephis official said Kenya is ready to enter the lucrative European Union market after a nine-year self-ban.
“However, stakeholders need to maintain the phytosanitary standards,” said Fredrick Koome, a Kephis inspector.