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    Narok County dairy farmers would from September this year be selling milk to their first processing plant, whose construction started on Friday last week.

    Namelok Dairies, which is expected to guzzle up to 200,000 litres of milk per day, has been set on a five-acre piece of land at Motonyi, in Narok South and will process chocolate bars, ice cream, yoghurt, ghee, butter, in addition to processing fresh milk. 

    Speaking during the ground breaking ceremony, Governor Samuel Tunai asked farmers to adopt modern practices to maximise yields for the plant, whose first phase would cost Sh150 million.

    He pledged that the county will support them in achieving high results.

    “The county government would subsidise the pedigree animals from the Kenya Animal genetic Resource Centre. A team of 28 insemination officers has been constituted in every ward to spearhead the campaign,”  Tunai said.

    Directors of Namelok Dairies, who are Kenyans, committed to be giving back to farmers at least 20 per cent of the dairy profits through cooperatives and farmers groups.

    This is the first project out of an investors' summit held in the county in December, roping in investments worth 28billion.

    Poor road networks perennially compounds marketing woes countrywide, more so when it rains heavily, leading to losses before the products reach processors.

    READ ALSO: Planned Milk Plants Promise Better Days for Narok Farmers  

    While asking the investor to give locals a priority in employment opportunities, Governor Tunoi promised to do his best in improving agriculture-supporting infrastructure, like roads.

    In 2014, the county announced plans to spend KSh100 million in importing semen from Israel for free distribution to farmers to boost the local breed for milk, meat and other cattle products.

    The dairy market offers higher prices per liter to farmers who deliver more milk. For instance in June, farmers who supplied between 1-100kgs of milk to Brookside earned KSh33 per kilogramme while those with 101-5,000 earned KSh38 per kilogramme.

    Being the only milk processing factory in the county,  it is set to benefit residents of the the region most of whom are pastoralist.

    KCC

    Meanwhile, State owned New Kenya Cooperative Creameries has set a side KSh600 million for facelifting of two of its factories.

    Managing Director Nixon Sigei said KSh200 million will be spent to renovate Bomet County's Sotik factory while Sh400 million will be used to install new equipment in Uasin Gishu County's Eldoret branch.

    The move is to enable the factories efficiently handle milk, which he said has increased as a result of farmers embracing modern farming technologies.

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    Kenyan farmers growing bitter melon stand a chance to benefit from better prices in the global market, thanks to the high demand sparked by recent research claiming that its juice can destroy cancer cell lines by 90-98 per cent.
    The cucumber like vegetable-fruit, with an extremely bitter taste is mostly consumed by the Indian community in the country and a piece retails for KSh10 at Ngara and City Park market,  according to the National Farmers Information Service (NAFIS).
    cure pancreatic cancer
    Bitter melon, also known as Goya or Karela, has for a long time been used by people around the globe to treat various health conditions, and recent findings by the Nevada Center of Alternative and Anti Aging Medicine says that 5 per cent solution of bitter melon juice can destroy up to 98 per cent pancreatic cancer cells, prompting a sharp increase in demand for the vegetable. Another study by the University of Colorado found that the bitter melon solution showed a reduction of 64 per cent in the size of pancreatic tumors.
    The super medicinal value of this vegetable has seen its demand increase by 41 and 20 per cent in Europe and US market which normally mostly rely on imports from Asia. According to the 2013 Bitter guard Status report by the International Crop Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, the global market for herbal products is expected to reach $5 trillion by the year 2050 with Aloe Vera and bitter lemon products commanding almost 50 per cent of the total market share.
    Global production
    Currently, Asia produces 75 per cent of the global bitter melon with India leading with 31 per cent followed by China and Pakistan at 22 and 9 per cent respectively. Others include Vietnam at 6 per cent; Philippines 4 per cent While Indonesia and Thailand produce 2 and 1 per cent into the global market. Where as bulk of these vegetable is grown in Asia, the ICRISAT report show that most of it is used domestically, leaving very little for the external market.
    Yield and production estimate
    Generally, this crop thrives in hot and humid climate areas with well-drained soil with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.7. The crop matures after three months from planting time and produces 21 tonnes per acre on average with a gross income of $2740. The international Bitter Melon Council estimates the total production cost of this crop to be $653 per acre.

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    Narok County farmers have been asked to deliver wheat to silos and other storage facilities to shield themselves against brokers who are buying the produce at low prices.

    County Executive for Trade, Industries, and Cooperatives Development Richard Birir said rains are making it difficult for the more than 3,000 farmers to access markets away from fields. 

    They are forced to sell their produce to the brokers at a loss because it is also challenging to reduce and maintain low moisture content in wheat in this weather.

    “I want to urge farmers to deliver their produce to the various silos in the county. They will be dried to the right moisture content as they wait for the right prices.”

    “Mombasa Millers is the main buyer of their produce that is offering fair prices, but it has been overwhelmed,” the executive said.

    Middle-men are taking advantage to exploit the farmers who are selling their wheat to meet school fees, fresh cultivation and other costs.

    Throw-away price

    A 90 kg bag is being sold at between Sh1,500 and Sh2,000. Major millers are buying the wheat at a maximum of Sh2,800.

    It is estimated that the county produced more than three million bags of wheat in 2015. The yield was almost twice that of 2014, which was 1.8 million.

    READ ALSO: Cost of wheat locally has been low due to import influx.

    Birir said poor road network in hampering transportation of the wheat from major growing areas like Mau Narok.

    “It is unfortunate that little can be done to improve the roads at this time when it is raining. But the county has allocated money to the sector and we expect work to start before and after the the April long rains to shield the farmers against future losses,” he said.

    Storage

    The National Cereals and Produce Board is only offering drying, cleaning and storage services in their 357,000-90 bag capacity silos in the county.

    Storage per month for every bag costs Sh17 per month while one will pay Sh40 for drying.

    Birir blamed the 'liberal market' which he said, allows for variable prices, disadvantaging farmers who have shouldered production, transportation and other costs.

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