BY COAST MEDIA REPORTER
Fortunes of mango farmers are set to change drastically following the commissioning of a Sh200 million Hola Integrated Fruit Processing Factory in Galole Constituency of Tana River County.
For a long time, farmers of these highly perishable products have experienced losses for lack of market and suffered under the hands of ‘brokers’ who bought their produce at lower prices.
The setting up of the factory which is being operated by the Coast Development Authority (CDA) will provide a ready market for mango farmers in the county.
When fully operational, this fruit project has the capacity to process 30 metric tonnes of mangoes a day with a direct workforce of 30 and 2, 250 mango collectors serving it.
The Coast regional commissioner John Elungata, who is also the Coast Regional Development Implementation Coordination Committee (RDICC) chair, says the plant is a ‘game changer’ and will boost local farmers’ income through value addition.
According to him plans are underway for President Uhuru Kenyatta to come and officially launch the factory in the near future.
“This fruit processing factory will in the long run improve farmers’ livelihoods and also create jobs for locals,” he says.
The factory will help mango farmers in providing a market for their mango fruits by addressing post-harvest loss and salvaging any surplus mango fruits from going to waste through leveraging on value addition and increase farmers’ profitability.
Those who accompanied Mr Elungata were Tana River Governor Major (rtd) Dhadho Godhana, Galole MP Said Buya Hiribae, Coast Development Authority (CDA) managing director Dr Mohamed Keinan, and Tana River County Commissioner Mbogai Rioba.
Most of these officials welcomed the commissioning of the factory expressing their gratitudes that will change the fortunes of Tana River people for positerity.
Dr Keinan says the processing plant has a capacity of producing one tonne of mango pulp per hour and the machine can operate for eight hour per day nonstop.
It has also been upgraded to include a water production line that will operate for 24 hours in three shifts leading to creating more job opportunities for the locals.
“We expect the upgrade to facilitate a multi-fruit juice processing capacity of all local fruit produce from the local farmers before marketing the products to other parts of the country,” he adds.
The MD challenged the local farmers to ensure a steady supply of the required fruits to keep the factory running throughout the year.
Governor Godhana lauded the initiative saying it falls within his development agenda of opening up cottage industries in cluster villages to bolster the communities’ economically.
According to him the commissioning of the fruit processing factory is in line with President Uhuru’s Big Four Agenda in the area of food security and manufacturing aimed at job creation among the community.
The President is expected ‘soon’ to officially launch the fruit plant and the village cluster programmes to revive industries in agriculture sector of livestock, mariculture and apiculture.
In his remarks, the Galole legislator Hiribae welcomed the government initiative saying it will provide the farmers with a ready market and value to their hardwork.
The factory, according to him, has addressed the transport challenge that had faced many farmers when taking their produce to either Mombasa or Nairobi markets.
“This project will act as an important source of economic growth and job creation to foster poverty reduction in his constituency,” he says adding that it should be expanded to accommodate all farmers in the entire county.
He expressed hope the fruit growing farmers will be protected from exploitative brokers who have been ‘milking’ them for long by buying their produce at throwaway prices.
In the short or long term, farmers are expected to benefit from the factory through better earnings from their farms to generate steady incomes and better livelihoods in the agro-business sector.
(Edited by Mwakera Mwajefa)