June 16, 2024

Return Kilifi Cashew Nut Factory to Locals, Owen Demands

Owen Baya, Kilifi North MP stressing a point in a past event (Photo/ Courtesy)

By Ronald Ngoba

Email, thecoastnewspaper@gmail.com

A Kilifi legislator want the Agriculture and Livestock cabinet secretary Mithika Linturi to start the process of returning the Kilifi Cashew Nuts Factory ownership back to the local people.

Owen Baya, Kilifi North MP, say the collapse of the once giant firm left thousands of workers stranded and empty handed after years of service.

Addressing a public baraza outside at factory’s Mkoroshoni area, the MP said he had already set aside Sh97 million in this year financial budget for the reviving of cashew nuts and coconut growing adding that the same amount could go along in negotiating with the factory owners.

The factory collapsed after it failed to service a Sh95 million Barclays Bank’s loan in 1990 prompting it to sell off the premises to Millennium Management Limited for Sh58 million.

The National Assembly minority leader said returning the factory to the people of Kilifi would restore their dignity adding that it had been the economic mainstay of the region.

“In this financial budget 2023-2024, I set aside Sh97 million for the revival of cashew nuts and coconut and that money is in the Ministry of Agriculture. That amount can also be used as collateral to buy off the factory and revive the hopes of many cashewnut farmers.”

The factory was established in 1975 by then, Kenya Nuts Limited which had a capacity to process about 15,000 tonnes of the products per annum thus, serving farmers across the entire coast region.

The lawmaker also recommended upgrading of the factory by turning it into a horticulture manufacturing industry that can process a variety of products.

“Turning the factory into a horticulture will be big relief to thousands of farmers who are suffering in the hands of brokers. They will be able to sale their produce direct to the factory which is part of the Kenya Kwanza’s big four agendas.”

In his response, CS Linturi assured residents that plans were underway of buying the factory from the investors but challenged them to ensure there would be enough raw material to sustain its operation.

“Negotiation of buying the industry is at advanced stage, soon will make some announcement on the progress reached but I want to challenge farmers to be ready on the availability of enough raw materials.”

The secretary said through the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) the government would soon distribute drought and tolerant seeds to farmer across the region so as to address food insecurity.

“The varieties of the seeds include maize, beans, sunflower, sorghum and others that are drought-tolerant and mature earlier compared to the once farmers have been using.”

Fatuma Mwachidudu, a Kiwandani village resident, said production of cashew nuts dwindled in the region after the closer of the factory in 1990.

She accused the Kilifi District Cooperative Union (KDCU) of colluding with then influential officers in the late Moi’s regime government in embezzling farmers shares.

“We were holding 35 percent of the company shares but when the factory was going down some KDCU officers colluded with powerful people in the late Moi’s government to stole our shares.”

Former Kilifi nominated Senator Christine Zawadi asked government to consider compensating Kilifi coconut farmers for the losses incurred during the drought.

She said coconut trees died due to drought experienced between 2018 to 2022 leaving thousands of locals who depended on the cash crop for their livelihood for years hopeless.

Kilifi is one of the coconut zones in the region and the biggest producer with over 60 percent of the yields coming from it.

“We all know Kilifi was hit by severe drought and a big number of coconut trees died. Many people who relied of coconut farming were left hopeless. We have seen other Counties farmers are being compensated after incurring such loses, i challenge the government to consider compensating our coconut farmers,” said Zawadi.

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