After a two-hour drive from Nyeri, we arrive at Elijah Muriithi’s farm in Kiamuruga village, Kirinyaga County, which is literally littered with bananas.
The farmer has been growing bananas for the past 31 years, but for all those years, he has never been as unhappy as he is now.
This is because prices of the produce have fallen to a new low, pushing farmers into losses.
On his farm, Muriithi has heaps of unsold bananas and has no idea where to take them.
And this is the scenario on most of the farms Seeds of Gold team visited this week.
A company they were selling the produce to stopped buying abruptly, leaving the farmers stuck with the produce.
“We are caught between a rock and a hard place. The company was buying the produce at Sh20 a kilo but brokers are currently offering less than half the price,” notes Muriithi.
With no buyers in sight, the bananas are falling off the stems, rotting on the farms as some farmers feed them to cows.
Currently, brokers are buying a bunch at Sh200, down from over Sh700.
“Brokers know that we are desperate and that is why they are offering us Sh10 per kilo,” adds Muriithi.
On his one acre, Muriithi grows three types of bananas namely Grand Nain, Williams and Fhia-17.
“I have been chopping the bananas and drying them in the sun in the hope that I will later make flour but still I don’t know where to sell the product,” says the farmer, who grows 300 plants.
To grow bananas, Muriithi digs a three by two-foot hole and puts a wheelbarrow of manure, which he mixes uniformly with soil before planting the suckers as he maintains a distance of 12ft from one plant to another.
“Larger spaces are disadvantageous since bananas require a lot of water to develop a canopy,” notes Muriithi
Isabela Wambui has over 200 banana stems on her farm and recalls the good old times with nostalgia.
“The last time the firm purchased from me, they carried over 600 kilos of bananas at Sh20 per kilo. I was selling the bananas once a month and earning over Sh20,000 but now I am making less than Sh5,000,” she says.
The farmers want the county government to intervene and help in the construction of a warehouse or factory that will process bananas for Kirinyaga farmers.
Kirinyaga County government, however, faulted the farmers for changing buyers. Johnson Ndege, the agriculture chief officer, said farmers are encouraged to form associations that link them to buyers.
“A majority of the farmers jump to buyers offering higher prices instead of sticking to the ones offering standard prices all seasons,” noted Ndege.
He said the county government has constructed shed to link buyers to the farmers.