Sunflower farmers from the miraa growing zones of Meru, who were contracted by Bidco last year, have received more than Sh8 million for produce delivered to the manufacturer of edible oils.
The sunflower farming initiative dubbed ‘Tujiinue Tena’ and spearheaded by Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (Pacja) and Bidco was aimed at diversifying income for miraa farmers hit by loss of markets.
Pacja Executive Director Mithika Mwenda said more than 1,000 farmers produced about 200 tonnes of sunflower in the pilot project launched last year.
Speaking while overseeing the payment of farmers who delivered their produce to Bidco, Mr Mwenda said the programme was timely at a time when farmers are grappling with the effects of Covid-19 and climate change.
“The farmers have been paid Sh40 per kilo, which is the best price so far in the country. We have managed to eliminate middlemen enabling the farmer to get the factory price. This shows that it is possible to change the fortunes of farmers,” Mr Mwenda said.
Embrace sunflower farming
He noted that once the farmers embrace sunflower farming, it is possible to produce up to 500 kilos per acre.
Mr Mwenda called on the county government to support more farmers to access quality seeds to venture into sunflower farming.
Last year, Bidco announced that it was ready to spend more than Sh120 million in buying sunflower from farmers in Meru as it seeks to plug a local supply deficit of more than 6,000 tonnes.
According to Bidco head of agribusiness John Kariuki, the manufacturer is targeting more than 3,000 farmers in semi-arid parts of Meru to meet its demand of 10,000 metric tonnes for oil production.
Bidco is also targeting local farmers to sustain the production of giant bamboo, which it uses to power its production processes.
The oils manufacturer estimates that it may need up to 6,000 tonnes of bamboo wood every month to power its industries.