•Taveta constituency produces at least 35 to 60 tons of bananas in a year.
• At least 2,080 hectares are under banana plantation in Taita Taveta.
A Sh110 million banana processing and value addition plant, to be constructed with a grant from the European Union, is set to be launched in Taita Taveta this month by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Taita Taveta Banana Farmers’ Co-operative Society (TATABA) chair Constantine Malai asked farmers to embrace banana farming, to enjoy benefits of the plant.
Speaking in Taveta on Tuesday during a stakeholder forum for Banana value chain, Malai observed that their greatest challenge is lack of markets, as most of their banana harvest rots away due to lack of buyers.
“The processing plant will ensure we get a permanent market. Value addition will be critical as it will help diversify the products to produce flour, chips, jam, juice and probably banana wine which is a local brew called ‘mbeke’,” said Malai.
According to county executive of agriculture, livestock and fisheries Davis Mwangoma, the value addition plant construction will commence this month on a three-acre piece of land at the new market area in Taveta.
“The county is also keen to have a good model with linkages to the market,” he said.
The department has come up with strategies to increase acreage to 4,080 hectares and increase production from current 125,000 tonnes to 246,000 tons in the next four years, to sustain the banana factory. The raw materials will also be sourced from Mwatate, Voi and Taita Sub-counties.
Last year, the county supplied the farmers with 3,000 tissue culture banana seedlings which can improve their yields up to a seven foot, 90 kilo banana.
Ann Kambura,Taita Taveta University lecturer said a partnership between the county government and the University can capitalize on the skill at the university to produce seedlings to supply the farmers and neighboring counties.
The industry targets to process at least 4 tons of bananas a day and is already sourcing for a ready market for the finished products from this industry.
Taveta constituency is the babana basket for Taita Taveta County. Farmers in this Sub County produce at least 35 tons to 60 tons per acre in a year on the 2,080 ha under banana plantation.
The banana variety in Taveta ranges from tissue culture, Kinguruwe, Grand Main, Valarie, Matoke and Mshale. Others are Kisii, Mkono wa Tembo, Imange and Bokoboko commonly referred to as Mkojozi among others.
Once implemented, the project will increase household incomes by 30 percent, link farmers to the market, help them explore a wide range of the market and further create 38,930 direct and indirect employment opportunities.
The factory is expected to generate about Sh6.9 billion annually hence improve the livelihood of the citizens.
Abigael Ngalemi, a banana farmer in Timbila acknowledges that the factory shall boost farmer’s income. She asked the government to fast track the construction of the highly awaited processing plant.
“There has never been a better time to be a banana farmer in this County than now, the future is bright. The Voi/ Taveta/ Holili road shall also play a bigger part in this plant because it shall enhance accessibility,” said Jumamosi Masamo, a farmer in Taveta who has been cultivating bananas since 1978.
The processing and value addition plant is also geared towards improving the price of bananas, thereby increasing household incomes and boost food security.