Potato farmers in Meru County are set to benefit from a Sh100 million cold storage facility being constructed at Ngusishi in Buuri West region.
The facility has a capacity to hold 250 tonnes of Irish potatoes and is set to be completed by March this year. It is expected to assist farmers cut down on post-harvest losses as well as earn better prices for their produce.
According to Micro and Small Enterprises Authority (MSEA) CEO Mr. Mwenda Rithaa, the facility will boost Irish potato production in the region.
Rithaa pointed out that for a long-time middleman have taken advantage of farmers, buying their produce at throw away prices; adding that the cooler will reduce post-harvest losses by over 30 percent and thus enable farmers to earn better returns for their produce.
The CEO said the cooling facility would hold the produce for up to eight months and therefore farmers would wait for the prices to improve unlike previously when they sold the same imMediately to avoid rotting. Besides, he added, on delivering their produce to the cold store, farmers would be given a voucher upon which they can access loans.
Mr. Rithaa said MSEA intends to facilitate value addition to various agricultural produce across the country adding once the cooler is completed, the organization will also support dairy, poultry, cereals, and horticultural farmers to ensure they earn more money from the ventures.
A resident of Gusishi area Marete Mbijiwe said they are an elated lot noting Irish potato farming had become less lucrative as many middlemen had invaded the subsector. “We are delighted that we have a long-term solution to our woes as many of us sell imMediately after harvest for lack of a storage facility,” he said.
Mbijiwe said that he is optimistic with the construction of a cold storage facility, farmers will get better returns for their produce. “We hope construction of cold storages will be replicated in other countries to help cut down on post-harvest losses which is a big challenge to many small-scale farmers,” he said.
According to the Meru County Integrated Development Plan (CIDP) 2018-2022, the county produces 196,434 tonnes of potatoes every year valued at more than Sh5 billion but due to lack of cold storage facilities, farmers incur post-harvest losses amounting to Sh1.8 billion annually.