, NYAHURURU, Kenya, Feb 15 – Farmers in Nyandarua North District last year earned Sh350 million from the sale of horticultural crops, District Agricultural Officer (DAO) Joseph Mutuma has disclosed.
He said the prospects of local farmers were set to be brighter following the awarding of a tender to construct a Sh26 million ultra modern horticultural produce market within Ndaragwa Town by the government.
Mr Mutuma observed that local farmers were able to realise the earnings despite suppressed prices of their produce as they were at the mercy of middlemen who dictated the market prices.
He however expressed optimism that with the completion of the market, prices could improve.
"Though cases of middlemen dictating the prices of these produce in this area, our farmers were able to make good incomes and am sure we will not have cases of hunger as reported elsewhere. However we need to tame these brokers so that farmers can make good earnings," he said.
Mr Mutuma said contract farming had gained momentum throughout the year with several farmers\’ groups being contracted to grow snow peas, garden peas, pigeon peas, lima beans and tree tomato fruits for export.
While releasing his 2010 agriculture annual report, Mr Mutuma further disclosed that the government had released Sh5.4 million for the implementation of programmes aimed at increasing food production such as training farmers, purchase of breeding stock-dorper rams, buckes and does as well as Kenbrow cocks for distribution to farmers.
The DAO also hailed efforts by area MP Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) for initiating construction of 19 greenhouses through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) for several self help groups for commercial production of tomatoes which has been identified as a top earner and does well in the district.
A quarter acre of tomatoes under green house production gives the farmer between Sh40,000 and 60,000 as opposed to those grown in open fields where a farmer barely gets Sh20,000 for the same acreage.
Mr Mutuma observed that green house farming was fast gaining momentum in the district as evidenced by the high number of green houses currently standing at over 70.
The market expected to be complete in October this year, will comprise fresh produce storage rooms, open loading and parking bays as well as a sheltered wholesale and retail open sections and an extra 50 rental stalls for retain purposes. The ultra modern market will also include an agro processing unit.
"Once complete, the market will not only benefit farmers but the entire community as it will create employment and open avenues for establishment of other related business such as transport and also enable farmer groups have an opening to start value addition ventures," the DAO said.
Fresh food processing companies are expected to form the bulk of customers at the market once complete as they seek to satisfy the local and international markets.