KENYA-The UK government has launched the construction of a KS2.3 billion (US$18.5M) production facility for Irish and sweet potato processing in Kenya.
The processing facility located in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, will process fresh and frozen Irish and sweet potatoes and is expected to have a capacity of 60,000 tonnes.
Once completed, the factory will be the first in the country and the third in Africa after Egypt and South Africa to process Irish and sweet potatoes for the European market.
The factory is a partnership between the UK government and Select Fresh Produce Kenya Limited, an import-export company that deals with Agricultural Produce categorized as both Fresh and Dry food products and Fruits.
The project is implemented through the UK’s Sustainable Urban Economic Development Programme (SUED) in collaboration with the Iten municipality.
Speaking at its launch, Jane Marriot, the British high commissioner to Kenya said that the factory will guarantee steady farm prices to over 10,000 smallholder potato farmers in the county and the region.
She also added that the facility will create at least 5,000 direct jobs in its first year of operation which will increase to 10,000 jobs within five years.
In addition, the program also intends to be producing a new high-yielding seed variety to boost farmers’ yield and income.
In Kenya, potato is now the second most important food crop after maize. It is grown by 800,000 small-scale farmers and is estimated to create employment for an estimated 2.5 million people along the value chain according to a report by International Potato Center (CIP).
Elgeiyo Marakwet county, where the factory will be constructed, is the second in potato production in the country after Nyandarua but the farmers have been exploited by middlemen reducing the potato farming morale.
Wisley Rotich, the Elgeiyo Marakwet governor, said that the county will fully support the project to boost the potato value chain and reduce exploitation by middlemen.
He added that he has posted cooperative officers in all wards to strengthen cooperative societies saying farmers will sign contracts with the factory as groups and not individuals.
Supporting this, Eunice Mutua, the CEO of Select Fresh Produce Kenya said that the factory will work closely with local farmers to ensure that what they produce meets international standards.
She added that they will ensure that farmers will use methods that are environmentally friendly and promote climate resilience.