The construction of Kshs. 100 million potato cold storage facility at Madaraka area in Ngushishi Timau Buuri Sub-county of Meru County which is being constructed by the National Micro and small Enterprise Authority (MSEA) is 70% complete.
Speaking during the inspection tour, Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development Cabinet Secretary Betty Maina said the facility is aimed at ending post-harvest losses of potatoes in the area and boost production
“Timau cold store is anticipated that it will be available mostly to potato farmers because that is the product mostly produced here in large quantities. It has capacity to increase the shelf-life of products by up to 8 months.
This will ensure farmers have a very sure market for their produce,” said CS Maina.
She said the government also wants to curb exploitation of potato farmers by brokers and cartels.
“It is the county governments that will organize farmers for deliveries and also the usage of the facility, “ she added.
The CS said after the cold storage facility is complete, the government will then construct a potato processing industry in the area so as to add value to the crop.
Maina said the National government is constructing a similar facility in Nyandarua for potatoes and in Kisii for bananas.
Trade Chief Administrative Secretary Lawrence Karanja said the facility will assist the potato farmers in Meru County in storage of potatoes as the farmers wait for a better price market of their produce adding that brokers will no longer determine crop prices.
“There were some delays due to heavy rains but we can say we are satisfied with the progress of the project,” Karanja added.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi urged the farmers to take advantage of such projects by the National government by producing more farm produce so that they can uplift their livelihood.
“We are excited about this project. It will radically transform potato industry in this area because the biggest challenge has been perishability. This cold storage will enable us to extend potato shelf-life and we will relieve the farmers from pressure to sell immediately,” said Governor Murungi.
Meru County produces more than 19,6000 tons of potatoes annually in about 17,000 ha of land and boasts of more than 4000 small scale farmers.
This sector was valued at more than Kshs. 5 billion in 2016.
The County government of Meru has embarked on helping farmers establish several co-operatives to manage production while a potato union oversees the marketing of the produce.
This crop is majorly grown in Abothuguchi, kibirichia and Kiirua areas.
The most favourable climatic condition is in areas with annual rainfall of between 850mm and 1200mm; and altitude of between 1500mm and 2800mm above sea level. This is an investment with value addition options and quick returns.