A new deal between Kericho farmers and a UK based company has sought to boost farmers earnings through direct export of agricultural exports to the European Union and a technology that increases the shelf life of the produce.
Sahara Communities Abroad (Sacoma) will buy coffee, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, bananas and sorghum from Kericho small-scale farmers. According to Sacoma CEO Perez Ochieng there is a huge market in Europe as demand for sweet potatoes is 120 tonnes weekly and Sacoma only manages to buy five to 10 tonnes from sub-Saharan Africa.
“We realised that people from Africa have the ability to feed Europe and so we set up a market that will buy primarily from small holder farmers,” she said. Ms Ochieng’ said Kenyan farmers have a better chance in the EU market as their food is organic compared to their counterparts who grow GMOs.
Sweet potatoes damaged while harvesting will be preserved using a new technology. Sacoma will pay Sh35 per kilogramme of sweet potato compared to Sh15 in the local markets.
The county governor Paul Chepkwony assured Ms Ochieng’ that although the volumes required by Sacoma seemed huge, farmers are determined to supply whatever quantity was required.
“Our farmers will never let you down. I am happy that value addition will be done here. Sorghum for export will be ground here in Kericho and we will be an example to other counties on how produce can be packaged and exported,” Prof Chepkwony said.
Already Sh800,000 has been donated to kickstart the construction of a sweet potato packaging factory.
Prof Chepkwony said the products exported to the European Union will be labelled ‘Produce of Kericho County.’ He urged farmers to produce quality food to meet EU export standards.