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    By George Munene

    Kirinyaga County farmers are set to benefit from the construction of four new markets that will curtail losses caused by long farm-to-market wait times for avocado and tomato farmers.

    The aggregation centers that are set to be completed in the next three months will be based in Githure, Gathoge, Karumandi, and Makutano constituencies and bring to 15 the number of modern fresh produce markets in the county.

    These centers will offer farmers and traders an open-air market that is more appropriate to their current selling points by the roadside and on walkways.

    The County's Governor Anne Waiguru announced plans to establish an avocado collection and packaging center, where the county’s produce will be processed, packaged and branded in readiness for local and export markets.

    A tomato factory will also be constructed to enable processing for local and export markets. Waiguru said the factory will enable farmers to earn more money from tomato products and save them from post-harvest losses.

    In anticipation of increased demand, farmers have been supported to establish nurseries where they are propagating quality tomato and avocado seedlings for sale to other farmers within and outside the county.

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    Mark of Quality KS1758

    By George Munene

    Kenya has introduced a Mark of Quality, 'KS1758’ Code of Practice for locally traded horticultural produce. This is meant to improve the quality and efficacy of domestically consumed vegetables and fruits.

    At its unveiling, Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya said the quality mark will also help farmers earn a premium from supermarkets and other retail stores as local consumers have become more aware of the potential hazards of consuming unsafe food. At the same time, the capacity of counties to reach support farmers adhering to these safety regulations will be enhanced. Local governments will also invest in farmer support services such as testing, capacity building, and certification.

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    The Government is looking to have this 'KS1758’ adopted as the national standard. To this end, it is working with the Retail Traders Association of Kenya and other private sector players to have supermarkets and other large horticultural retail outlets have their agri-produce suppliers adopt the Mark of Quality.

    He pointed out that while the value of horticulture consumed in Kenya has been rising; from being worth Sh209 billion in 2015 to Sh268 billion in 2019; little focus has been placed on ensuring this produce is safe and anywhere near the quality standards demanded by international markets which consume only four per cent of the horticulture produced by the country.

    “Most of the focus has been placed on food security and little on produce, quality, and safety. The quality mark will not only enhance market access by addressing pesticide residue challenges and harmful organisms but also protect consumer health”, Munya added.

    Related News: Organisation to train more farmers to meet growing organic food demand

    A Kenyan first, ‘KS1758’ Code of Practice has been developed with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and a collaborative effort by the Retail Traders Association of Kenya, Horticultural Crops Development Authority, and the Standards Implementation Committee.

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    National Coffee Revitalization Progress Report

    By George Munene

    Speaking on Monday at the National Coffee Revitalization Progress Report, Agriculture Cabinet secretary Peter Munya said farmers will now have discretion in the processing, trading, and selling of coffee beans with the passage of the Coffee Bill 2021

    At the meeting held in Nairobi, Munya identified marketing agents, doubling as coffee buyers, as some of the main culprits who contribute to poor returns gotten by coffee cultivators. Per the bill, this practice, he said, will be made illegal curbing farmer exploitation as it prohibits factory management from using farmers’ assets as collateral when taking loans.

    According to the report, in the year 2019-2020, Kenya exported 46,333 metric tons of green coffee beans, earning it Sh22 billion.

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    While Kenya’s coffee fetched some of the best prices internationally, the payment gotten for the cherry for farmers continues to decline. This is partly responsible for the 30 per cent decline in coffee cultivated area, from 170,000 hectares in the early 1990s to 119,000 hectares in 2020. From a production peak of 129,000 metric tons in 1983-84, the crop's output has seen a 70 per cent decline to just 40,000 metric tons in 2020.

    The proposed Coffee Bill 2020 further outlaws millers and marketing agents from lending to farmers. This will now be the charge of the Sh3 billion Cherry Advance Revolving Fund which was approved by Kenya's Cabinet and will offer coffee farmers loans at a more affordable 3 percent interest. Coffee society deductions from the proceeds of sales will also be capped at 5 per cent. 

    “We intend to reform the sub-sector by improving efficiency, performance and profitability to farmers and increasing international sales of products,” Munya said 

    Related News: Self-help group learns pineapples in Nyeri break away from low-earning coffee

    At the meeting, David Njogu, Coordinator of The Coffee Revitalization Project, stated that recruitment of a service provider who will engage youth trained in agriculture to offer extension services to farmers is underway. “This will help disseminate technologies which are essential for modern coffee production to our farmers,” he said.

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