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County bags deal to export organic banana to Denmark

Taita Taveta County in partnership with the Micro Enterprise Support Program plans to export 700 metric tonnes of organic bananas to Denmark, a deal that will make the devolved unit among pioneers in the country to export the organic produce.

According to Micro Enterprises Support Programme Trust (MESPT), the joint project has identified 500 smallholder farmers for organic banana farming, aiming at improving the market for the produce hence reducing poverty levels among residents while promoting environmental conservation.

Through MESPT, a total of 126,000 organic tissue culture banana seedlings will be planted in the county out of which 30,000 seedlings have already been issued to the targeted farmers.

Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) Market Development Programme (DMDP) Manager Kuria Kung’u, said other 1,500 farmers in the county practicing conventional banana farming will also receive 600,000 tissue culture banana seedlings to boost banana production in the region.

“Apart from the current 500 farmers doing organic banana farming, we are also supporting 1,500 farmers doing conventional banana farming in Taita Taveta County where we are targeting to support them with about 600,000 tissue culture banana seedlings,” said Kung’u.

DMDP which is currently implemented by MESPT is targeting to export about 7000 metric tonnes of organic bananas to Orana, a Danish fruit company.

Taita Taveta County Agriculture Executive, Eric Kyongo stated that the county government is determined to invest in drainage works to bolster production by opening more land for farming, as well as improving road infrastructure, a move aimed at ensuring easy accessibility to the markets.

“We will soon ink a deal with Orana Fresh Fruits Company to revive the stalled banana processing plant in Taveta that will be used for value addition to increase farmers’ earnings from the crop. However, this might be in vain if we won’t address the existing challenges including poor road network,” he said.

Kyongo hinted at plans to establish a sanitary pads plant in Taveta using banana by-products in Taveta Sub-county, which he noted are at an advanced stage and the executive leadership from Kilifi and Taita Taveta have already held deliberations on the same.

Niels Osterberg, Director Orana, said part of the plans to ensure that the bananas meet the export standards is to conduct farmer training on post-harvest handling.

On his part, Simon Mwachia, one of the farmers practicing organic farming in Taveta has called on youths in the county to embrace farming noting that if successful, the synergized efforts in tapping the economic power of banana production will create both skilled and permanent jobs and add thousands of casual positions for the locals.

Mwachia urged the national government together with the county government to expedite plans to provide adequate water for irrigation for the success of the project.

By Arnold Linga Masila

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