EU to support banana factory for Taita-Taveta

Taita-Taveta County banana small-scale farmers will soon have a formal market for their produce as negotiations for  Sh100 million grant from the European Union get underway.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries County Executive Member Ben Mghana said the EU, with the help of the county, is conducting a feasibility study in the region before the deal can be sealed.

He said the factory, which is to be constructed at Taveta Sub-county, would double benefits from the crop, which is lost to middle-men who buy the fruit at low prices.

“Before the money is committed to the project, the granting party must be sure that the investment will for sure impact the people. It has to be tested for viability and ability to increase economic returns for the county in general,” he said on telephone.

Upon completion, the factory is expected to be churning out cakes, juice, jam, crisps, canned banana, among other products.

With this new development, the farmers will have one channel market, shielding them from middle-men. They transport the produce to towns like Mombasa where prices are high.

June Ndela, a Wundanyi small-scale farmer, said the factory will turn the food crop into a cash generator. She said big banana bunches are sold between Sh600 and Sh800 when actually they should be fetching more than Sh1,000 or even double.

In giving the farmers a strong bargaining power, the county will support them to come up with a banana co-operative.

Mghana asked farmers to plant high yielding disease resistant varieties like Grandnine and Williahms.

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With at least 62 per cent of the total land in the county being under the Tsavo National Park, tissues cultured bananas would support the farmers in meeting the demand of the factory for it to make an economic sense.

It is estimated that the county produces about 50 tonnes of bananas annually. Taita-Taveta is amixed farming county, although more residents raise more livestock that crops.

The county has allocated finds to open up access roads to ease transport from farmers to the factory.