Agriculture Cabinet Secretary, Peter Munya, says the government in collaboration with partners is expediting construction of a grain storage warehouse and an Irish Potato cooling plant in Nakuru County to help cushion farmers against post-harvest loss and underpricing during glut.
The 110 million shillings Irish Potato cooling plant will be constructed in Kuresoi North and the grain storage warehouse in Njoro.
Under the government’s warehouse receipt arrangement small holder farmers will be able to use their farm produce as collateral on low interest loans from local banks and for subsidized farm inputs and implements.
Munya was speaking at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) in Njoro during a field day organized by the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) and the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
The CS said the facilities will be duly certified to issue receipts to farmers who will use them to secure the loans.
Munya said plant researchers at KALRO are concluding a painstaking exercise of developing new varieties of Irish potatoes that can last long after harvesting, are resistant to diseases and pests and mature faster.
He revealed that the varieties currently under trials will be unveiled in April next year and the State department for Agriculture in collaboration with local Governments of Potato growing Counties will distribute the flagship seeds of the varieties to farmers in the effort to enhance productivity and profit.
Among the 38 varieties of Irish Potatoes developed by KALRO between 1953 and 2017, the Shangi variety is popular with smallholder farmers in the area but growers have lodged complaints about its short shelf life . Growers have asked for a variety that they can store longer awaiting better prices at the market.
Shangi was released in 2015.It takes 3 to 4 months to maturity. The variety matures early, it is highly prolific, cooks fast and its versatile nature in use made it popular with commercial growers.
He encouraged farmers to adopt the new seeds of the new varieties once dissemination begins to improve their yields, earn profit and improve their livelihoods.
To complement the Nation Government’s warehouse receipt system, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said the devolved unit is constructing two grain storage warehouses in Mauche and Elburgon in Njoro and in Molo Sub-counties to the tune of Ksh 12 Million each.
Governor Kinyanjui noted that Nakuru has the potential to grow into a food basket if the five Agricultural research organizations based in Nakuru will work with farmers with a view of providing practical and sustainable solutions to their farming problems.
He noted that KALRO, Egerton University, the Dairy Training Institute in Naivasha, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and the Egerton University are well placed to inspire innovation among farmers in the region.
Kinyanjui argued that this will enable farmers to reimagine farming from the present subsistence to agribusiness models for better livelihoods and wealth.
Kinyanjui advised farmer groups in the region to take advantage of the adequately equipped Agriculture support institutions in the County to expand their knowledge and improve their skills for competitive practices that can make their ventures in Agriculture rewarding.
The Governor said the devolved unit is already scouting markets in Djibouti and other countries in the horn of Africa where farmers can export their farm produce at competitive prices.
In the spirit of advancing the county’s agenda on food and nutrition security and empowerment of the smallholder farmer, the Governor called on both levels of Government to allocate 10 percent of their annual budgets to agriculture.
He noted that this will enable farmers to get subsidies on farm inputs, their cost of production will be low and this will accord them pride of place as drivers of rural economies.