Banana farmers from Kirinyaga County have more than tripled their profit in the recent past by selling their produce as a group something that has strengthened their bargaining power.
Brought together under Kimweas Group, the farmers used to sell a kilo of the fruit at Sh4 each to realise Sh120 per bunch of 30 kilos. However, in coming together, the group is now selling a kilo at Sh15 raking up to Sh450 per bunch of the same weight.
According to Jane Wangechi, a farmer from Kimwea in Gichugu Constituency who has three-acre farm under bananas farmers sell their produce as a group to maximize returns.
“We do not have to negotiate with brokers anymore. I now make about Sh700, 000 per year which I am sure could have been less if I were to face the market alone,” said Wangechi.
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A group of banana farmers marketing their produce. Photo courtesy.
Kimweas Group has 60 members 40 of which are women. There are also other 206 similar groups in Kirinyaga County of which 120 of them are unregistered.
Another farmer, Sylvester Mbogo, who is also a local truck driver said he sells about two tonnes of bananas per month from his nine-acre farm.
“The most three preferred varieties of bananas we grow in this area and which are raised from tissue culture are grad Nain, Williams and Phie 17 which attract more prices,” said Mbogo.
Farmers from many parts of the county are now thriving from the crop and are calling on the county government to set up banana collection centres and a factory to curb post-harvest losses as they eye international markets especially the Middle East.
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Seoul’s Animal and Quarantine Agency of the Republic of Korea last year gave Kenya’s produce a clean bill of health allowing farmers to export bananas and broccoli to the country.
South Korea imports 70 percent of its food and in 2017, bananas were the most imported product in the country recording 834,000 tonnes, worth $1.24 billion, according to statistics released in September last year by the South Korea Customs Service.
In July this year, Meru farmers under Imenti Community Based Organization won a contract to export banana flour and pancake to Hungary an indication that the produce has potential international markets.
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Mbogo says that there are many products that can be made from bananas if the farmers can be assisted in harnessing their ideas.
Bananas are ranked 4th after rice, wheat and maize as the world’s most valuable crop consumed for their high nutritive value.
Kenya has an estimated annual banana production of 1.1 million metric tons with the main counties where the crop is grown include Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Kisii and Nyamira.
However, some of the challenges facing the farmers include limited water supply during dry season and lack of access to key inputs such as quality planting materials, fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery and tools among others.