A banana market will be constructed at Ntharene in Imenti South Sub County of Meru in a joint venture by the county government, the national government and the World Bank under the National Agricultural and Rural Growth Project (NARIGP).
Speaking during the ground-breaking ceremony at the site along the Meru-Nairobi Highway on Thursday, Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi said once completed the market is expected to increase the current capacity handled on a single day from the current 4,000 metric tonnes to 10,000 tonnes.
Governor Murungi said the project estimated to cost Sh95 million will also involve the construction of a parking bay for transport trucks to decongest the highway and added that banana cooperatives for farmers will be set up to avoid exploitation by middlemen.
The governor promised to ensure future construction of a factory to enhance value addition through production of banana flour, juice and wine.
He lauded the sub county for being the leading in banana production noting that the region has been placed on the map owing to the production of the tropical fruit.
Traders at the busy roadside market have hailed the move saying it will assist them maximise their returns noting that their work has been risky owing to the limited space for their business.
“We have been having difficulties serving our customers because sometimes it affects other road users resulting in heavy traffic snarl ups. We are forced to block part of the highway with our merchandise due to lack of space,” said Festus Kirimi, a trader.
Kirimi said they are forced to be extra cautious when conducting their trade to avoid accidents.
He said traders have been a hindrance to the smooth flow of traffic on the busy highway during market days hence the need to seek an expansion of the market space.
The market is meant to serve over 2,000 large-scale and small scale banana farmers mainly found in the lower parts of the sub county.
The roadside market stands out unique as one moves about 23 kilometres from Meru town and Mondays there is usually a beehive of activities starting in the wee hours of the morning with the selling of bunches of green bananas.
Lorries from as far as Nairobi and Mombasa throng the market narrowing the busy highway as traders exchange the commodity for cash whereby an estimated Sh5 million goes into circulation at the place every market day.
Besides the selling of bananas there are also other farm produce merchandise such as traditional roots and tubers like arrow roots, yams, cassava and sweet potatoes.
The governor stated that the largest banana market in the country is expected to be completed within 362 days adding that the flagship project is part of the benefits of the county’s vision 2040 blueprint.
“Through an implementation partnership with national government will see construction of a cold storage for potatoes at Kibirichia in Buuri Sub County and a macadamia factory at Kitheo in Tigania West Sub County,” Murungi said.