The Taveta Agro-Processing Zone in Taita-Taveta County is 80 per cent complete and is expected to start operation by September this year.
Speaking during the inspection tour at the facility on Saturday, the County Executive Committee Member (CECM) for agriculture Davis Mwangoma said that the processing zone is almost complete. The only pending issues include tiling, water and electricity connection and interior finishing.
Mwangoma added that they were at the stage of procuring the necessary equipment to beat the September deadline.
He was part of a delegation that visited the project which included officials from the executive and Taita Taveta County Assembly technical and agriculture committees.
“Currently, the building is over 80 per cent complete and we are at the final stages. The remaining bit is on the equipment which we have already tendered. We are hopeful we will meet the completion date of September,” said Mwangoma.
Once completed, the Taveta Banana Plant is expected to produce various banana products including banana flour, crisps, and paste.
Already, the county administration has held several consultative meetings with the national government on how best to operationalize the plant.
The county executive said they have engaged the top officials in the Ministry of Agriculture over the matter of blending of banana flour with other locally available crops to enhance the processes of value addition.
He disclosed that six flour crops have been approved and standardized for blending with bananas. They include cassava, sorghum and sweet potatoes.
The banana plant is set to spur economic and agricultural growth in the county and boost food security in the country. The plant will also create employment opportunities for the thousands of youth.
The completion news comes in the wake of severe losses by banana farmers since the outbreak of covid-19 pandemic in March last year.
The cessation of inter-county movement, closure of hotels and suspension of open-air market activities hit the banana farmers hard with their losses running into millions of shillings since it provided ready outlets for the banana from Taveta.
The banana plant is seen as a solution to eliminate losses associated with marketing. The process of value-addition to products which can be stored for longer periods will see farmers get better prices.
Juma Mwamba, chair of the Agriculture Committee in the county assembly, urged banana farmers in the region to expand the banana production to meet the demand.
“We are urging banana farmers to take up the challenge to grow more bananas and tap into the advantage of this plant. To stay operational and profitable, the plant will require more bananas and other fruits,” he said.
By Arnold Linga Masila