Potato farmers in Meru County have been incurring heavy post-harvest losses of up to 30 percent of their production due to lack of storage facilities.
However, this is expected to change once the Sh100 million potato cold storage facility under construction in Buuri West is completed.
The facility, which is being implemented by the Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (Msea), will hold 600 tonnes of potatoes for up to eight months.
Meru County Trade Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Lawrence Karanja said potato farmers will now be able to increase their earnings.
According to the Meru County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2018-2022, the county produces 196,434 tonnes of potatoes valued at more than Sh5 billion yearly. This means Meru farmers have been losing more than Sh1.8 billion every year due to lack of cold storage facilities.
Mr Karanja said the government has set aside Sh300 million for construction of cold storage facilities in Meru, Nyandarua and Kisii in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda.
“We expect the facility to be ready by the end of the year. This will significantly reduce post-harvest losses, which is a major challenge in potato farming. We will ensure farmers are organised so as to utilise the facility,” Mr Karanja said.
Meru Potato Cooperative Union chairman Chris Marete said the facility would significantly improve farmers’ earnings as they will be able to wait for good prices.
“Currently, we are at the mercy of traders because we have nowhere to take the produce if we do not sell. This is why prices jump from Sh600 to Sh3,000 per 50kg based on demand,” Mr Marete said.
He said two more cold storage facilities with a capacity of 100 tonnes will be built through the Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP).
MSEA chief executive officer Henry Rithaa said the storage facility will help stabilise prices throughout the year.
Mr Karanja said the government would facilitate establishment of a potato processing facility while more funds would be set aside for a banana cold storage facility in South Imenti. He called on farmers to venture into value addition saying the government has allocated Sh680 million through MSEA to support small and medium enterprises.
Mr Rithaa said the Sh680 million micro and small enterprises fund would be ready in two months once its regulations are gazetted.
“Once the facility is ready, potato farmers will be linked to the Commodities Exchange and have access to cheap credit from MSEA through the warehouse receipting system. We will also finance farmers through local cooperatives to increase production and venture into cottage processing,” Mr Rithaa said.
Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi welcomed the development saying his administration had already helped in formation of seven potato societies which bring together more than 15,000 farmers.