KENYA – The government of Kenya is investing Ksh. 430 million (US$3.9m) to build a tomato processing factory in Loitok tok, Kajiado County, one of the country’s food basket.

According to reports by Business Daily, the establishment of the facility is funded by the national government under the Ewaso Ng’iro South Development Authority (ENSDA).

It is expected to be up running by the end of 2022, promoting value addition of the crop, in a bid to curb post-harvest losses and reap more benefit in the market both locally and abroad.

“Tomato farmers in this region have been recording colossal losses annually. Upon the completion of the tomato factory ENSDA will be buying tomatoes directly from the farmers at competitive prices.

“Towards the country’s Vision 2030, the government is encouraging tomato farmers to tap more into the regional market through processing their farm produce. We want to make the tomato agri business lucrative,” said ENSDA Managing Director Ngala Oloitiptip.

The Loitoktok agricultural belt produced tomatoes worth Ksh1.3 billion (US$11.85m) between 2019 and 2020, becoming the second largest commercial tomato producer in the country after Kirinyaga County.

“Upon the completion of the tomato factory ENSDA will be buying tomatoes directly from the farmers at competitive prices.”

ENSDA Managing Director – Ngala Oloitiptip

However, the farmers are said to have lost 40 percent of the total harvest amounting to Ksh300 million (US$2.7m) in every four months due to middle men and market inconsistencies.

Other than development of the factory, ENSDA being one of the regional development authorities under the Ministry of Regional Development will advise farmers on quality of seeds and farm inputs to ensure high quality produce.

Currently, tomato farmers in the region are faced with high cost of fertiliser and increased fake inputs from unscrupulous traders, making them incur massive losses.

It will also offer relief to the producers who have been getting meagre earnings from the middlemen and further offer job opportunities to the locals.

Last year, Makueni County in Eastern Kenya commenced pulping of tomatoes at its fruit processing plant which has been producing mango puree.

The diversification move is aimed to guarantee continuous production at the plant especially when mangoes run out of season, a time that nearly shut operations of the factory.

The Makueni Fruit Processing Plant was established by the County government in 2017 with the support of the European Union, to stem wastage and raise incomes for fruit farmers in the county which has so far benefited over 12,000 families.

Other than pumping investment in the country’s tomato value chain, the state is nearing completion of a potato-cold storage facility in Meru.

The facility is one of the three cold-storage plants the country is establishing at a cost of Ksh. 100 million (US$910,000) each, with the other two located in Olkalou in Nyandarua County and Kisii to store bananas.

They have a storage capacity of 300 pallets of packed potatoes, which will enable farmers to store their harvest up to six months until they are offered deserving prices for their produce and reduce post-harvest losses.

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