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MPs want fruit processing plant in Tana River expanded further

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Small-holder mango farmers in Tana River will soon be smiling all the way to the bank after the government committed to expanding a fruit processing plant in the county.

Currently, the Coast Development Authority’s integrated fruit processing plant in Hola, Galole constituency, has a capacity to process 1,000 litres of mango pulp per hour.

However, the National Assembly Committee on Regional Development led by chairman Majimbo Kalasinga on Saturday said they will support its expansion to be able to process 3,000 litres per hour.

“This translates to almost double the current capacity of processing 1,200 tonnes of mangoes per year. The livelihoods of farmers in this region will significantly increase,” the Kabuchai MP said.

The committee completed a two-day tour of the plant and the region on Saturday with promise to the farmers in the county that their post-harvest losses will be a thing of the past once the plant is expanded.

The Sh245 million expanded plant was officially commissioned in November 2023 by President William Ruto after five years of delays due to financial and other challenges following its inception in 2017.

It was given to CDA to manage it.

At inception, the plant was operated manually but the government stepped in to expand it by installing a pulp processing plant, constructing auxiliary facilities and a waste management system.

Tana River county largely depends on mangoes, which is one of the cornerstones of the local economy.

It is one of the major mango-producing counties in Kenya.

More than 30,000 households are dependent on mango farming.

Farmers harvest over 50,000 tonnes in a season and transport more than 35,000 tonnes to markets and industries in Mombasa, Garissa and Nairobi.

“Unfortunately, a substantial portion of this precious produce remains unsold in local markets or, heartbreakingly, left to rot on farms due to the lack of buyers. The same has also been noticed in other counties in the Coast region,” EAC, Arid and Semi-Arid Lands and Regional Development CS Peninah Malonza said in November last year during the commissioning of the plant.

The main mango season in Tana River runs from October to March and as a result, a water bottling component with a capacity to process 1,000 litres per hour of purified water was introduced to complement pulp processing and contribute to sustainability.

Kalasinga said the government is keen to enhance value addition to increase farmers’ earnings in the country

The plant, he said, needs to be expanded to increase the capacity of the machine to satisfy the market.

“As a committee, we should see what best we can do for this plant to move from 1000 litres per hour to 3000 litres per hour to absorb more mangoes from the market,” Kalasinga said.

He urged CDA to offer farmers competitive prices to discourage them from selling their mangoes to exploitative brokers.

He was accompanied by MPs and committee members Mwago Amos (Starehe), Mwalimu Kombe (Magarini), Peter Nabulindo (Matungu), Paul Abour (Rongo) and Major (Rtd) Dekow Barrow (Garissa).

Kombe urged farmers to supply more mangoes to the plant for continuous pulp production.

“Unfortunately, some farmers harvest immature mangos thus contributing to loss. I advise farmers to put more effort by increasing farm acreage of mangoes and to be careful during harvesting to avoid losses,” he said.

He said the plant, if well utilized will significantly improve the economy of the Coast region as a whole.

CDA managing director Mohamed Keynan said the factory was established primarily to cushion mango farmers in Tana River, Garissa, Lamu and Kilifi counties against any post-harvest loss.

“We installed a one-tonne-per-hour capacity crushing machine which produces pulp. The pulp is the puree that will sell to juice makers,” Keynan said.

“Because mango production is seasonal, there are certain months that we do not produce it. In that case, as an institution we were able to place a water processing line,” he added.

Galole Mango Farmers’ Cooperative Society vice chair Deye Salim said CDA offers competitive prices and more and more farmers are now selling to the authority.

“We have seen the direct impact of the plant. However, there are still some gaps which must be addressed to move in the right direction. In the past, mangoes used to mature well but brokers made farmers harvest immature mangoes,” Salim said.

However, today, farmers are more enlightened because of public engagement by the CDA.

Jamey Ayu, a mango farmer, has seen first-hand the economic impact of the plant.

“I have educated my children up to the university level. We want the plant to be expanded to crush more mangoes and create employment to improve our livelihoods,” she said.

Haniel Mengistu
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