KENYA – Kitui County in Eastern Kenya has kick-started operations at the newly build Ksh. 20 million (US$185,000) fruit processing plant located at the Kitui Agricultural Training Centre.

The processing facility, with a production capacity of 5 tons per hour, is aimed to add value to fresh produces such as tomatoes and mangoes which are highly perishable, reports Kenya News Agency.

While commissioning the factory, Kitui County Governor Charity Ngilu, indicated that the huge losses the farmers in the region have been encountering over the years, will be a thing of the past as the processing plant offers ready market for their produce.

In addition, it guarantees them higher income as the produces will be converted into tomato sauce and paste, as well as fruit juices and purées, fetching higher prices in the market.

“Kitui farmers will pocket better earnings for their produce and be assured of a steady income from their self-employment in horticulture,” reiterated Ngilu.

Other than adding value to the produces, the factory features advanced technologies which will ensure the end products have a shelf life of two years without additives.  

“Kitui farmers will pocket better earnings for their produce and be assured of a steady income from their self-employment in horticulture.”

Kitui County Governor – Charity Ngilu

However, the governor noted that, handling practices like harvesting, pre-cooling, cleaning and disinfecting, sorting and grading, packaging, storing, and transportation also play an important role in maintaining quality and extending shelf life.

“Food processing offers opportunities for villagers to diversify their sources of income. When farmers in an area grow similar crops, processing helps to avoid the effects of lowered prices and incomes when seasonal gluts occur at harvest time,” she said.

The setting up of the plant has created both direct and indirect job opportunities.

Eastern counties venture into food processing

The Eastern part of the country is well-endowed with mangoes and tomatoes, which has led to the county governments to invest in value addition ventures.

Last year, the neighbouring Makueni County commenced pulping of tomatoes at its fruit processing plant which has been producing mango puree.

The diversification move is aimed to guarantee continuous production at the plant especially when mangoes run out of season, a time that nearly shut operations of the factory.

Machakos County has not been left behind as in Mid-June, it opened the Best Tropical Fruits Processing Hub.

Targeting the lucrative international markets; Australia, Europe and other countries across the world, the manufacturing hub is undertaking processing of high-quality mangoes, avocados, banana, pawpaw, tree tomatoes, peanuts and macadamia into avocado oil, macadamia oil, peanut oil, tree tomato juice, dried banana, dried pawpaw and mango juice.