Mango farmers in Elgeyo-Marakwet expect brighter days ahead after the county administration and the Japanese government launched a Sh11 million processing plant.
The region produces about 25,000 tonnes of mangoes every year and the establishment of the processor is expected to encourage farmers to increase acreage under fruit.
The processor is expected to enhance value addition and provide a market for mangoes grown in Kerio Valley.
During the launch, Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said the processor would work at full capacity since farmers in the region produce mangoes and other horticultural produce throughout the year.
“I have no doubt about the supply. In fact, Kerio Valley is one of the few regions that produce the sweetest mangoes in Kenya,” Mr Tolgos said.
The launch was also attended by Mr Fumiaki Hirai, an official from the Embassy of Japan.
Mr Hirai represented the Japanese ambassador to Kenya.
He was accompanied by Ms Ayumi Yamamoto, an investor.
Ms Yamamoto said there were plans to link Cheptebo fruit factory, which is on the Eldoret-Kabarnet road, to international markets.
She said that would be achieved if Kerio Valley residents ensure the factory is supplied with the fruits consistently.
“We also have a company known as Kenya Fruit Solutions in Thika, Kiambu County and it provides market linkages for fruits," she said.
Ms Yamamoto added that there was a guaranteed market for 10 tonnes of dried mangoes, “which translates to 300,000 fruits”.
Mr James Wekesa, the acting Agriculture chief officer, said only AIC Cheptebo conference centre had passed the quality test to offer certified mango seeds in Elgeyo-Marakwet County.
“The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services certified Cheptebo centre. No other entity should supply the seeds,” Mr Wekesa said.
Kerio Valley Development Authority (KVDA) plans to build a Sh70 million mango processing plant in Tot, on the boundary of Elgeyo-Marakwet and West Pokot counties.
The agency says it has taken the decision as more and more pastoralists in the two counties turn to horticulture.
According to KVDA, the factory would save farmers up to Sh10 million that they use to transport mangoes, oranges, pawpaws, watermelons, passion fruit and other produce to Eldoret and other far-off markets.
Fruit farmers have expressed hope that value addition would boost their income and reduce post-harvest losses.
“The processor will do away with middlemen who take advantage of us. We end up making huge losses,” Mr Joel Kimaiyo said.