Kenya commences value addition of sweet potatoes, establishes processing plant

KENYA – Kenyan sweet potato farmers in the Nyanza region are a happy lot after the county government of Migori inaugurated a newly built Ksh 110 million (US$960,000) processing plant.

The facility constructed with funding from both the County government and the European Union will add value to the root crop, producing crisps, flour and biscuits, among other products.

It is set to offer ready market for the small-holder farmers’ produces who have suffered for years in the hands of unscrupulous middle men who offer meagre price for the produce.

Migori is listed as the second-largest producer of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (OFSP), with 11,312 hectares under cultivation.

The neighbouring Homa Bay county is the leading producer with 24,268 hectares under production, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Other sweet potato-producing counties are Bungoma (7,480ha), Busia (4,614ha), Siaya (4,150ha), Kisumu (2, 855ha), Kakamega (4277.5ha), Narok (1658.4ha), Bomet (1,210ha), Vihiga (913ha), Machakos (1,973ha), Meru (1,046ha).

The crop is important in the country as in 2017, Kenya exported 39,66kg of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP). This was less than the 81,431kg exported in 2016.

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The biggest destination is Somali accounting for more than 80 per cent of exports. Kenya’s OFSP also fetches market in the United Kingdom and the EU, particularly Norway, France and Denmark. Other export destinations include Seychelles, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates.

Due to the growing global demand for the OFSP, which is classified as a nutritional crop, the Agriculture and Food Authority has embarked on regulating the industry.

According to Research and Markets, the global sweet potatoes market size was around US$42.0 billion to US$43.5 billion in 2020 with a projected market growth of 1.1% to 1.6% between 2020-2025.

Meanwhile, a local Kenyan financial institution, Faulu Bank has entered into a partnership with USAID-funded Feed the Future Kenya Crops and Dairy Market Systems Activity (KCDMS) implemented by RTI International to enhance access to finance for farmers across the country.

The collaboration which targets 12 counties namely: Migori, Homabay, Kisumu, Kisii, Siaya, Bungoma, Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia, Kitui, Makueni and Taita Taveta regions aims at supporting the development of sustainable agriculture as an economic engine, an environmentally sound enterprise, and an essential contributor to human health and welfare.

Besides the training, the USAID- KCDMS project Ksh.12.9 million grant will support Faulu to recruit and train staff in the branches that support agriculture financing as well as credit staff involved in agriculture loan analysis and disbursement.

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