Lack of equipment stalls fish processing plant

Fish farmers in Nyeri are staring at losses as a vital Sh60 million processing plant remains non-operational.

The farmers who had ventured into aquaculture in 2013 say the county government is yet to install key processing equipment.

The delay in equipping the Wamagana mini-processing plant in Tetu Constituency is said to be robbing farmers of profits running into millions of shillings with middlemen taking advantage and threatening the sustainability of fish farming.

Nyeri County Fish Farming Co-operative Thursday said catfish farmers particularly were depending on local markets to dispose of mature fish in their ponds.

“Farmers who would be making huge profits from the processing plant are making very little. Our local markets are crawling with middlemen who are giving the desperate farmers poor deals and just frustrating them,” said the cooperative chairman Charles Mbaoni.

According to Mr Mbaoni, Fisheries permanent secretary Micheni Ntiba had, during a tour to the plant last year, assured farmers that operations at the plant would start immediately.

“The plant was expected to lure more farmers to invest in aquaculture but now the reverse is true. Most farmers are impatient and others demoralised by the poor returns,” said Mr Mbaoni.

He said the county government had bought a few equipment since the handing over of the plant by the Transition Authority but decried the slow pace at which procurement was being done.

The plant with a capacity of processing up to 12 metric tonnes of fish was expected to bridge the marketing gap for the more than 3,100 fish farmers in the county.