The government in collaboration with partners is expediting the construction of grain storage warehouse and a Sh110 million Irish Potato cooling plant in Nakuru County to help cushion farmers against post-harvest loss and underpricing during glut.
Agriculture CS Peter Munya has said the Potato Cooling plant in Kuresoi North and the grain storage warehouse in Njoro will support the government`s warehouse receipt arrangement for farmers, where small holder farmers can use their farm produce as collateral on low interest loans from local banks and for subsidized farm inputs as well as implements.
Munya observed that the 10,000 tons storage facilities will come in handy to smallholder farmers, who are usually prone to exploitation by unscrupulous middlemen in seasons of over production, saying farmers will now store their produce until markets offer competitive prices for their respective farm produce.
The CS cited the predicament of potato growers in the region, whom he said have to sell their farm produce at prices lower than the production cost due to overproduction and lack of cooling facilities to preserve the produce until markets stabilize.
Munya was speaking at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in Njoro during a field day organized by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) and the Kenya National Cereals Board (NCPB).
The CS said the facilities will be duly certified to issue receipts to farmers who will use them to secure the loans.
Munya said plant researchers at KALRO are concluding a painstaking exercise of developing new varieties of Irish potatoes that can last long after harvesting, are resistant to diseases and pests and mature faster.
He revealed that the varieties currently under trials will be unveiled in April next year and the State department for Agriculture in collaboration with local Governments of Potato growing Counties will distribute the flagship seeds of the varieties to farmers in the effort to enhance productivity and profit.
Among the 38 varieties of Irish Potatoes developed by KALRO between 1953 and 2017, the Shangi variety is popular with smallholder farmers in the area, but growers have lodged complaints about its short shelf life. Growers have asked for a variety that they can store longer awaiting better prices at the market. Shangi released in 2015 takes 3 to 4 months to maturity. The variety matures early, it is highly prolific, cooks fast and its versatile nature in use made it popular with commercial growers.
The CS encouraged farmers to adopt the new seeds of the new varieties once dissemination begins to improve their yields, earn profit and improve their livelihoods.
To complement the National Government`s warehouse receipt system, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the devolved unit is constructing two grain storage warehouses in Mauche and Elburgon in Njoro and in Molo Sub-counties to the tune of Sh12 million each.
Kinyanjui noted that Nakuru has the potential to grow into a food basket if the five Agricultural research organizations based in Nakuru will work with farmers with a view to providing practical and sustainable solutions to their farming problems.
He noted that KALRO, the Dairy Training Institute in Naivasha, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and the Egerton University are well placed to inspire innovation among farmers in the region.
The governor argued that this will enable farmers to re-engineer farming from the present subsistence to agribusiness models for better livelihoods and wealth.
Kinyanjui advised farmer groups in the region to take advantage of the adequately equipped Agriculture support institutions in the County to expand their knowledge and improve their skills for competitive practices that can make their ventures in Agriculture rewarding.
The Governor said the devolved unit is already scouting markets in Djibouti and other countries in the horn of Africa, where farmers can export their farm produce at competitive prices.
In the spirit of advancing the county`s agenda on food and nutrition security and empowerment of the smallholder farmer, the Governor called on both levels of Government to allocate 10 percent of their annual budgets to Agriculture.
He noted that this will enable farmers to get subsidies on farm inputs, their cost of production will be low and this will accord them pride of place as drivers of rural economies.
Top officials from KEPHIS, NCPB, AFA accompanied Munya during the farmers’ fete.
By Jane Ngugi and Dennis Rasto