Nakuru Deputy Governor Erick Korir has said there is need for direct market linkage among farmers as cartels in the sector have become notorious in earning from where they have not sowed.
This comes at a time when the county is in the process of establishing an international airport, not only in its quest to attain city status, but also to boost the horticulture industry.
Dr Korir was speaking when he hosted a team of experts from the European Union (EU)-supported Market Access Upgrade Program (Markup) Kenya, who are on a tour of 12 counties where the programme is being implemented.
Markup Kenya is implemented by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido), in partnership with the government and the private sector.
The deputy governor said most farmers struggle to get planting materials and asked the experts to partner with them in ensuring access to the same.
He further called for strengthening of farmers’ groups so that they can reap from the benefits of working together such as large scale production in order to meet market demand.
His sentiments were echoed by the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Immaculate Maina, who said it would be important to form a platform for Nakuru herbs and spices farmers.
Dr Maina noted that most growers are smallholder farmers and produce individually, adding that such a platform would bring them together so that they can produce and market jointly.
“We have a chance to gain from the MarkuP project. Herbs and spices is one of the sectors which is not organised, and we hope to be able to organise it,” said Dr Maina, adding that the county hopes to develop a strategy for the sector.
Dr Maina e added that while the county has vast agricultural land with a high potential, farmers need to be linked to markets.
In his presentation in Nakuru County, Markup Kenya National Coordinator Maina Karuiru said they are looking at areas of partnership, adding that the programme aims at creating impact by improving livelihoods and enhancing food safety and market access. In Nakuru, the project focuses on snow peas as well as herbs and spices.
Training extension officers
Among the issues set to be accomplished through this programme is training of 500 extension officers across the 12 counties where it is being implemented.
Other issues include training on global good agricultural practices (GAP) and aflatoxin and post-harvest handling for the target produce.
The project focuses on selected fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs and spices value chains, food safety, group management and dynamics among others.
Its implementation areas are informed by findings of intensive researches and surveys carried out across the areas of interest and with focus on particular value chains.
Representing the private sector, Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (Fpeak) CEO Hosea Machuki hailed Nakuru for being a major contributor to the horticulture sector.
He added that the private sector is ready to provide market for produce that meets the required standards. But he emphasised on the need for small holder farmers to work in groups as this eases the process of engaging them on contractual basis.
While there is a growing demand for herbs and spices, Mr Machuki urged producers to diversify their farming and consider produce with high demand such as passion fruits and summer flowers among others.
He noted that in 2020 for example, the country exported 787 tonnes of passion fruits, meaning the amount exported weekly was 15 tonnes. He said that there is more potential in this area.
Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC) CEO Okisegere Ojepat noted that the supply chain needs to be consistent in meeting market demand in terms of quantity and quality.
The technical team, which comprises experts from the government, private sector and Unido, will be going round the 12 counties where Markup Kenya will be implemented.
Although Markup Kenya was officially launched in October 2019, the emergence of Covid-19, which brought strict health measures and limited movement, had delayed its team’s visits to the counties of implementation.