Inside Politics

Exports: Coast residents urged to take up farming

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021 00:00 |
Bixa. Photo/Courtesy

Coast residents have been asked to take advantage of the region’s agricultural potential to exploit opportunities available in the fresh produce export market.

Fresh produce industry stakeholders said the Coast has the potential of becoming a vibrant source market for exports, but has been widely underutilised.

The team led by Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya, Okisegere Ojepat, asked people from the Coast, particularly growers to get into their farms because there is an opportunity to export from the seaport of Lamu, Malindi airport and from Moi International Airport, in Mombasa. 

“So we are telling the people of Coast to take advantage of the infrastructure that is here for production and export of fresh produce from this area,” he said.

While noting that local residents could be sitting on a goldmine that is fresh produce, Ojepat added: “We also want to urge the county and national governments to support the coastal region to realise its potential.”

He said despite the immense potential and the proximity to massive infrastructure, coastal counties just remain for transit, with almost zero contribution to the market.

Horticultural Crops Directorate director Benjamin Tito said Coast region can sustain itself in both domestic and export produce if it pays attention to production of produce that are well adopted to the region such as Asian range of vegetables, mango, yellow passion fruit and pineapples.

Miraa, Pyrethrum and other Industrial Crops (MPIC), Director James Mutia said currently Coast is the only area in the country known for production Bixa – a crop whose extracts are used as an industrial food colouring, which is mostly grown in Kwale County.

Mutia said currently the region produces 2,200 tonnes of Bixa per year but with more effort and attention, the region has a potential to produce over 7,000 tonnes.

He said of the 2,200 tonnes produced every year 87 per cent is taken to Kenya Bixa Ltd for processing while 13 per cent or 300 tonnes remain since the firm can only process up to a certain capacity.

“Coast is lucky to be the only region that produces Bixa. It is a crop that is very useful in food colouring; it is used in the meat industry,” Mutia added.

Natural food colour

We are encouraging high production of Bixa as a natural food colour to shield the public from using synthetic food colours that can be harmful.

We are encouraging farms to increase production,” he said, adding that the government is working on  potential export market to countries like China where there is ready market for Bixa.

The Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya CEO Hosea Machuki said Coast has tremendous potential to produce enough for local consumption and surplus for export to regional and international markets.

Early this year, Kilifi Country signed a memorandum of understanding with Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC) to promote the growth and development of the agribusiness sector through provision of financing and capacity development assistance to youth and women-led small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Under the programmes’ radar will be the provision of training, coaching and mentoring in entrepreneurship and business skills needed to develop and run successful agricultural enterprises for youth and women in Kilifi and the surrounding counties of Mombasa, Kwale, Taita Taveta and Tana River.

In addition to the capacity-building activities, AgriBiz programme will provide support in identifying market opportunities and value-adding activities, building links to markets, gaining access to financial support and policies development.

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