Farmers in Tana River County have been urged to utilize the multi-million Galole Integrated Fruit Processing Factory set up by the Coast Development Authority (CDA).
Principal Secretary (PS) State Department for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) and Regional Development Idris Salim Dokota asked local farmers to embrace the factory as a lucrative source of revenue for their produce.
Dokota says farmers should not allow the project which was first installed in 2014 to become a white elephant due to lack of business adding that the factory also sources mangoes from Lamu, Kilifi, Kwale and Garissa counties.
The PS urged local farmers to wait for mangoes to grow to maturity and sell to CDA’s fruit processing plant, instead of brokers who have infiltrated the market, offering instant cash and exposing them to huge losses.
He said farmers must avoid middlemen if they are to reap big from their produce saying oftentimes brokers were benefiting at the expense of the farmers.
“Tana River farmers should wait for mangoes to mature and stop selling to brokers who offer instant cash, irrespective of whether the fruits have matured. This affects the quality of the pulp,” said Dokota.
He urged the farmers to add value to their products so as to fetch higher prices adding that they should maintain good quality products because quality is vital in local and international markets.
The PS who was accompanied by Coast Development Authority (CDA) Managing Director (MD) Dr. Mohamed Keinan said this while on a familiarization tour to assess the progress of the fruit facility and met local mango farmers.
Dokota said the plant was also expected to create employment among the locals but wondered how that would be possible if farmers continued to shy away from the factory.
He asked farmers in the region to grow enough mangoes to meet the market demand and cautioned them against exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen who buy the fruits at very low prices and go on to make exorbitant profits.
The PS said previously farmers were exploited by middle men but now the factory in the locality was an opportunity for them to access better markets for their farm produce.
He said the factory will help farmers to process their mangoes, create employment opportunities, increase income status and increase local revenue base for the county of Tana River.
The PS said the factory will contribute to changing the economic face of Tana River and neighbouring counties at large adding that the government is working tirelessly to create a more conducive and inclusive business environment.
“Investments in value addition are the only way to generate wealth and increase jobs especially in rural areas,” said PS Dokota.
Dr. Keinan said the factory has the capacity to process 12 metric tonnes of mangoes into fruit juice per day adding that the facility is out to improve the farmers’ livelihoods.
He said the factory cannot rely on the Tana River alone for raw materials and that is why neighbouring counties are encouraged to grow mango to meet the quality of raw materials the factory needs.
Dr. Keinan says the factory is poised to place the entire coast region at the forefront for natural fruits and juices.
The CDA MD said the Galole facility has also been expanded to start processing pineapples and passion fruits and drinking water to keep it running to full capacity.
Dr. Keinan says the CDA facility is expected to add value to the economy of the coastal counties through the production of fruit juice adding that 1500 farmers are benefiting from the factory.
He said the factory was constructed by CDA at a cost of Sh. 100 million to help reduce seasonal losses that farmers were encountering given the usual bulk production over a single season that results in a market glut.
Speaking on behalf of the farmers Jilo Sale said that despite the potential to be a huge boost to them the capacity of the factory was still not enough to process their yield.
Sale also said the authorities should explore ways of helping local farmers to learn about other value-addition practices for their produce.
By Hussein Abdullahi