Taita Taveta County in partnership with European Union (EU) is planning to put up a Sh116m banana processing plant to boost the crop’s production in the area which has been dominated by maize farming.
According to a 2014 national government Household Baseline Survey report in the county, 90 per cent of the total households grew maize, 46.4 per cent grew beans and 30.5 per cent grew cow peas, which indicates that the majority of households in county were highly dependent on maize farming.
It is because of this the county government has launched plants to help farmers in the area diversify their farming activities and further help them with a ready market for their produce given only about 12.5 per cent of the households are said to have contractual arrangements for marketing their agricultural produce as per the survey.
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In the partnership EU has given Sh110m, while Taita Taveta County Governor Granton Samboja’s administration is contributing the remaining Sh6.5m. The plant will also include a cold storage warehouse for ripening bananas.
About 55 per cent of the activities at the factory will involve ripening, while 45 per cent will be processing flour, chips and jam.
The factory is projected to boost banana farming in Taveta and already farmers in the area produce an estimated 35 to 60 tonnes an acre annually.
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A report by the county says there are 5,139.79 acres under banana plantation in Taveta, but farmers complain of low earnings as the produce trades at Sh5 per kilo during off-peak season.
In what may look a longer wait for farmers to start benefiting the new market for their produce, the plant will be completed by 2023 and will process the produce to meet international standards.
However, the construction of the multi-million-shilling value-addition plant will commence in April at the new market in Taveta
“The industry targets to process at least four tonnes of bananas daily, we are already sourcing for a ready market for the finished products,” said Majala Mlagui, Deputy Governor.
Upon completion, the factory is expected to be churning out cakes, juice, jam, crisps, canned banana, among other products giving farmers ready market.
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.