A business partnership between a United States based export company and a Sh1.2 billion horticultural processing factory in Nyandarua has re-energized farmers in the area.
Officially opened in 2004, Midlands Horticultural Processing Factory nearly collapsed due to years of mismanagement. Farmers lost confidence in the facility, opting to sell their potato to brokers.
The partnership between the factory and Silva International, a Chicago-based wholesaler and supplier of dried fruit and vegetables guarantees the farmers improved income throughout the year, through diversification of farm produce.
According to factory manager, Paul Mutembei, the factory is diversifying from traditional potato processing to include vegetables like carrots, spinach, and kales.
It is also producing animal feeds from processed horticultural byproducts.
“The biggest challenge we face is that the local potato does not meet standards required by our customers. The poor quality is due to overgrowing of the same crop over the years without crop rotation thus compromising both quality and quantity. Introduction of the vegetable processing section will encourage farmers to practice crop rotation,” said the manager.
“The factory will require 15 tonnes of vegetables per day to make one tonne of processed green vegetables the exporter requires. This is a very high demand that guarantees the grower of a ready market. However, the farmers must meet some standards set by the exporter,” said Mr Mutembei.
It has hired agricultural extension officers and partnered with Nyandarua County government to assist farmers to meet high standards set by the exporter.
“Diversification to vegetable processing is a big advantage to us. It will enable me practice crop rotation in my one acre farm and still earn from the vegetables,” said Mr Jacob Kamande.
He is among the few farmers who sold potato to the factory at Sh25 per kilo, compared to many who sold to brokers at Sh600 per 150kg bag at peak season earning as little as four shillings per kilo of Irish potato.
Factory chairperson Mary Kiarie is banking on farmer training and equipment servicing will guarantee farmers a ready market for their produce “so long as they meet our customer set standards.”
“The factory was dying, it could not service its loans forcing us to renegotiate with banks, but we are comfortably able to service a loan we owe the Equity Bank at Sh1 million per month,” said Ms Kiarie.