Nakuru to build a Sh117m potato factory in Molo
For long, potato farmers in Nakuru County have been grappling with post-harvest losses which translates to billions of shillings.
In fact, statistics from the county’s department of agriculture show over Sh3 billion worth of potatoes goes to waste in Nakuru every year due to shortage of storage facilities.
But it is now good news to farmers after the Governor Lee Kinyanjui’s administration revealed plans to build a Sh117 million ultra-modern storage facility in Muchorwe, Molo Constituency.
According to Agriculture Chief Officer Kibet Maina, the storage facility will help cushion farmers against post-harvest losses in the county, which is a leading producer of potatoes after neighbouring Nyandarua County.
"The Sh117 million structure will store at least four million kilogrammes of potatoes, which will help provide a timely market and better prices for farmers. The aim of the cold storage is to eventually eliminate brokers and avoid post-harvest losses," said Mr Maina.
Currently, farmers sell their produce immediately after harvest, which sometimes coincides with a period when other neighbouring counties are harvesting, leading to low prices.
The factoryt, he revealed will be implemented under the World Bank-funded project dubbed National Agricultural Rural Inclusive and Growth Project (NARIGP).
The NARIGP project aims at increasing agricultural productivity in rural areas in 21 targeted counties and also improve food security.
Nakuru is among the 21 counties that are benefitting from the Sh22.6billion World Bank project that seeks to boost food security in Kenya.
The five-year programme seeks to increase agricultural productivity and profitability of targeted rural farmers in the selected counties.
The multi-million facility in Nakuru will have an information centre and proper storage areas which will prolong the shelf life of the harvest by between three to six months and also maintain consistency in quality.
Mr Maina revealed that farmers will also be able to bulk the commodity and hence improve their bargaining power for better prices.
The county has also put up potato cold rooms in Keringet.
Tonnes per hectare
It is estimated that the county's productivity ranges from between eight and 10 tonnes per hectare, depending on agricultural practices and the agro-ecological zone.
Data from the agriculture department further indicates that the county has the untapped potential to realise 25 tonnes per hectare.
“It is possible to more than double the productivity by using good agricultural practices such as the growing of certified seed potato. The county seeks to invest in storage facilities across the region where a farmer can keep his potatoes for over four months until prices stabilise,” stated Mr Maina.
He said with the storage facility, farmers will take their produce to the markets at the right time for better prices and hence increase their income.
The Nation learnt that the construction of the storage facility will kick off in January.
Governor Kinyanjui has revealed that the move is expected to enable potato farmers double their yields and incomes through adoption of good agricultural practices and post-harvest management technologies.
"The county is also streamlining marketing structures to cut on post-harvest losses that we witness during over production of the crop," said Mr Kinyanjui.
In Nakuru, there are about 20,000 farmers growing potatoes on 38,000 acres where assorted varieties are grown with the Shangi type dominating.
Apart from post-harvest losses, farmers in the region have also been grappling with lack of certified seeds, pests and disease infestation, fluctuating market prices, and exploitation by brokers, which Governor Lee Kinyanjui’s administration seeks to tackle.
The county is also implementing the 50kg packaging rule which seeks to protect farmers from brokers.