It is another season of the year when supply of mangoes is high leading to glut.
From Makueni to Siaya, mangoes are going for a song as traders and farmers try to avoid losses.
In Siaya County, traders along the Akala-Ndori highway are selling piles of juicy mangoes at Sh1 each.
Not far from the main road at the heart of Siaya Town, two young women are cashing in on the glut, buying the mangoes cheaply and making juice and wine out of them in a venture that shows how small steps in value addition can alleviate farmers’ problems.
Maureen Achieng and Dorothy Owinga are the brains behind the mini-fruit processor that makes mango juice and yellow wine.
They call their agribusiness Sparrow Processors, which they started three years ago.
Theirs is a story of college students eager to find an income-generating activity to improve their lives as they alleviate farmers’ post-harvest losses.
“During our industrial attachment in 2016 at Siaya Agricultural Training Centre, we saw the problems mango farmers went through when there was glut. We, therefore, decided to make juice using the plenty of local mangoes,” recounts Achieng, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Enterprise Development from Pwani University.
They started five of them by raising Sh200 each to buy the raw materials — 50kg of mangoes — at Ting’ Wang’i Market.
“We had already been trained on the value addition bit at the agricultural centre. The mangoes are juicy, therefore, we realised we did not have to process with sugar or any additives. The machines at the centre were available at our disposal,” she recalls.
NOTHING GOES TO WASTE
The students would make 10 to 20 litres of juice a day and hawk at Sh20 a cup within Siaya Town and plough back the profits into the business.
“I joined the students when they approached the county government for financial support. I saw it was a brilliant idea, and not just a venture to make pocket money but something that can grow into a big industry. Four of the students moved on,” says Owinga, a former Miss Tourism Siaya County.
Today, Sparrow Processors buys 250kg of mangoes from farmers in Alego-Usonga, Ting’ Wang’i and Ndori markets every day.
“We have two boda boda riders who ferry the mangoes for us to the processing hub at the agricultural training centre. We have employed three women who sort the fruits and clean them in readiness for processing,” explains Owinga, 27.
Once the mangoes are cleaned, the seeds and the flesh are separated and the pulp is then put inside a juice extractor.
Once ready, the product is pasteurised for up to 80 degrees Celcius for 15 minutes before it is cooled and stored in the refrigerator. Out of the 250kg of mangoes, they get 100 litres of pulp.
“We pasteurise the juice to kill any pathogens. The beauty with the local mangoes is that they maintain the pale yellow colour for up to eight months even after refrigeration. Other mango varieties become darker in a few months,” explains Owinga.
They sell the juice in five-litre, 500ml and 300ml Sparrow branded packs, with each going for Sh800, Sh60 and Sh50 respectively in Siaya Town, including in offices.
Nothing goes to waste. The duo uses mango peels as the main ingredient when making the yellow wine.
They take fresh mango peels and some juice to make wine must. The wine must is then boiled and cooled to begin the fermentation process.
“We add brewer’s yeast to the wine must, which we store in jerricans at room temperature. We then leave it there for three months before we decant. The whole process takes about eight months before the wine finally matures,” says Achieng, 25.
Once the wine is ready, it is packed in 750ml bottles that retail at Sh1,000.
PROPER COLD ROOM STORAGE
In a month, Sparrow Processors makes an average of Sh100,000 sales from mango juice.
“Our wine is unique and one of a kind in the market. We are working with an officer who is a specialist for quality controls and assurance in agro-processing,” says Achieng.
The enterprise is in the process of acquiring Kenya Bureau of Standards certification for the mango juice and wine so that they can start to supply in supermarkets.
Fred Juma, the project manager at Siaya Agricultural Training Centre, says the business has created jobs for youth and women as well as farmers.
“We want the youth to engage in such businesses so that they can alleviate the suffering of mango farmers, a majority who are old and would not be keen to add value to the fruit,” says Juma.
As the business grows, they have to grapple with inadequate space for expansion and lack of proper machinery.
“Due to the limited space and lack of machines, we are restricted on the quantity of production in a day. That means we need to invest in a proper cold room to store our products,” says Owinga.
Prof Mathews Dida, a lecturer at Maseno University’s Department of Agriculture, says entrepreneurs must consider where they will get constant raw materials and market before venturing in processing business.
“Since they process wine and juices, they need to enrol in a business incubation programme. This will help them develop quality products at the same time link them with potential investors to scale their business,” says Prof Dida.
He advises the entrepreneurs to study the market needs especially when it comes to wine production.
Mangoes are an important crop
Mangoes are the second most important fruits in the country, contributing to 21 per cent of the total value of fruits produced.
Owing to wide adaptation to diverse agro-ecological conditions, mangoes are produced in several counties.
The Horticultural Crops Directorate (HCD) lists the top 10 mango producing counties by value as Makueni (30 per cent), Machakos (23 per cent), Kilifi (16 per cent), Kwale (8 per cent), Meru (4.5 per cent), Embu (2.8 per cent), Bungoma (2.1 per cent), Tana River (1.8 per cent), Elgeyo Marakwet (1.1 per cent) and Murang’a (1.1 per cent).