East Africa’s largest open air market is set to resume business in August, providing an outlet for farmers in Central Kenya to sell perishable produce long after harvest.
The Sh210 million Karatina Market will have 250 square metres of cold storage where farmers can preserve fresh produce for a fee until there is demand for the commodity.
“Cases of spoilage of perishable commodities will be a thing of the past because of the cold storage facilities installed in the building,” said Karatina Municipal Council engineer Timothy Muchemi.
Previously farmers grappled with perishable produce forcing them to sell it to middlemen at throw-away prices.
The market building comprises a basement and four floors offering 7,500 square metres of space that can accommodate up to 3,000 traders.
“We are determined to finish the work by end of July to pave the way for the traders in August,” says Uchumi Contractors International Agencies Ltd managing director John Nduati.
The building has basement parking for about 40 vehicles and Internet facilities.
Traders who were ejected from the old open air market in July 2010 to make way for the construction will be given priority in the allocation of market stalls and shops.
“The first allocations will go to the old traders who have cleared their debts with the council,” said Karatina Market Officer Joseph Kinyua.
The Karatina Municipal Council is expecting revenue collection from the market to grow tenfold once the new market is opened.
“We intend to collect between Sh1.5 million and Sh2.2 million per month from levies,” said Mr Kinyua. The council used to collect between Sh140,000 and Sh160,000 in a month from the old market.
Mr Kinyua said a 6ft by 15 feet shop would be going for Sh2,500 annually for a single business permit besides rent for the stalls, shops, cooling and parking.
A shopping mall with some of its stalls facing the busy Karatina-Nyeri highway will be included in the facility. Daily charges for the mall will be increased from Sh20 to Sh30, subject to approval by the Nyeri County Assembly.
Town Clerk Francis Kariuki said the review of tariffs was necessary because the council would be offering hawkers centralised services including security from one floor.
“Opening a mixed mall like this will give us variety and not just vegetables,” said Mary Wambui a resident at Karatina town.
The Karatina project is part of the Economic Stimulus Project which sought to have modern markets constructed across the country, one in each constituency.
The projects are at various stages of completion across the country.
However, some have not taken off as the councils look for where to erect the markets following grabbing of land which was earmarked for the markets.