A Sh4 billion sweet potato processing plant is set to be built in Migori before the end of the year, signalling good news to farmers who have often complained of exploitation by middlemen.
Speaking Thursday in Kuria during the inspection of the five-acre parcel of land where the plant will be situated, Devolution principal secretary Nelson Marwa said the plant, which will be set up in Getonganya in Mabera sub-county, is meant to address the plight of farmers through value addition .
“The Ministry of Devolution is planning to set up a sweet potato processing plant here. The plant will address the plight of farmers who have been exploited heavily by middlemen who buy their produce at low costs,” Mr Marwa said.
“Some of the products the plant will be processing from the sweet potatoes include crisps, flour and biscuits. This will give the farmers value for their crop.”
The PS said this would be a part of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda, which include food security, improve manufacturing, universal healthcare and better housing.
“The project aims at realising two of the Big Four agenda; that is manufacturing and enhancing food security. It will also offer job opportunities for the young people and also open up the region for more investment,” Mr Marwa added.
The factory could easily be the largest project to be set up in Migori under President Kenyatta’s tenure.
The PS said the European Union will finance part of the costs as the national government foots the rest of the bill, mainly by providing land and financing the balance.
“We have already identified the land on which it will be set up. The ministry has also set aside funds for capacity building among the farmers in order to increase production,” he said.
The decision for the plant comes even as local governor Okoth Obado was facing criticism for not meeting his promise to get an investor to set up a factory.
In his inauguration speech, Mr Obado had pledged building a potato processing plant at Kehancha in Kuria.
Scores of farmers in the region shifted to sweet potatoes farming after tobacco, hitherto main cash crop in the region, dwindled as a result of lack of proper markets and poor prices, coupled with high cost of production.
The exit of Alliance One tobacco company, which used to be the biggest leaf buyer, served as the ultimate death knell to the crop in the region.