The official opening of Getong’anya Sweet Potatoes processing factory in Kuria region, Migori County early this year has renewed farmers’ hopes for a bright economic future.
The plant worth Sh117million was launched by Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and is expected to process over 100 tons of sweet potatoes daily, allowing farmers to expand production in the area.
Within a span of three months alone since its inception, the factory has triggered a massive potato farm development in the region, and a sharp increase in production that has seen earnings shoot up by over half a billion shillings from the previous earnings.
According to statistics from the local agriculture office, farmers from the area earned Sh1.5 billion during the 2020/2021 financial year and by the end of the first quarter of the 2021/2022 financial year, the earnings increased by Sh0.5 billion to Sh2 billion
The crop that was initially produced in Kuria West Sub County alone is currently being embraced by many farmers from Kuria East, Suna West and Suna East sub-counties following the presence of the factory in the region.
“Sweet Potato product is fast dominating the County’s export market,” says Mr. Joseph Mwita, a senior agricultural official at the County Government
Mr. Mwita in an elaborate report says that land under sweet potato farming had increased in the region tenfold between the year 2017 and 2021, following better payment in the local and export markets.
Between 2017 and 2021, farmers from over 30 villages in the region produced over 270 tons of sweet potatoes and increased the production to over 300 tons by the end of the first quarter term of the 2021/2022 financial year
Mwita added that sweet potato was the fourth best produced crop in the county after sugarcane, tobacco and maize, and is fast overtaking the former crops in profit making.
The farmers’ diversification move to growing sweet potatoes in large quantities caused the European Union to donate funds towards the establishment of the sweet potato factory in the area to assist in manufacturing various products from the crop’s raw material.
The multi-million plant currently fully operational is consuming much of the raw material currently going to waste as a result of delayed sale
“The plant is consuming much of the farmers’ produce to carry out value addition on the crop to the benefit of the local and outside markets,” explained Mwita.
Migori is listed as the second-largest producer of Orange-fleshed sweet-potato (OFSP) with 11,312 hectares under cultivation after Homa Bay County, the leading producer with an area of 24,268 hectares under the production of the OFSP.
As a result of the dismal performance of sugarcane and tobacco farming and, unpredictable maize crop production in Migori, the Ministry of Agriculture in the region through the County Executive Committee (CEC) member, Mr. Valentine Ogongo encouraged farmers to extensively engage in sweet potato production to earn good income.
The Ministry has also engaged in massive distribution of quality sweet potato seedlings to farmers to support the lucrative venture.
Mr. Mwita also explained the challenges the farmers are experiencing in growing this crop, citing brokerage by middlemen as a big hindrance to farmers making good profit from the crop.
“There are unscrupulous people who have become brokers between the crop farmers and buyers from outside, but are denying our farmers from making good profits,” he said.
He added that they are looking for better ways of offering the farmers a steady market without them going through the middlemen who block them from getting good profits.
By George Agimba