Nakuru has pledged to enforce laws designed to curb the exploitation of carrot farmers by middlemen as the county plans to set up a regional export market of the crop targeting consumers within the East African Community.
The county Agriculture executive Immaculate Maina said the administration is also helping farmers with quality improvement strategies as well as encouraging them to stick to export rules and regulations to access international markets.
Speaking in Nakuru town after holding talks with officials of Mau View Carrot Farmers’ Sacco, Dr Maina said her department is in talks with the national government and development partners on the establishment of cold rooms and carrot value-addition factories to help farmers avoid post-harvest losses.
She said the Sacco is exporting 2,850 bags of the produce to Uganda weekly, adding that most farmers were missing out on available opportunities because they were not members of cooperatives.
“Nakuru county has the potential to feed the region’s demand for carrots. Farmers must ensure that only quality carrots are produced and marketed. Harvesting and export of immature crops negatively affects Kenya’s image in overseas markets,” she said.
She observed that adherence to food safety regulations by carrot farmers will help them penetrate regional and international markets where prices are better.
“The county government will provide training on proper agronomical practises enabling farmers to improve their pesticide residue levels and ensure food safety standards are observed. Farmers willing to export their products should have valid licenses and be registered as exporters or else, their produce will be impounded at border points,” she said.
While also citing the existence of many brokers as a hindrance to market growth, Dr Maina said the county administration was in consultation with policymakers and stakeholders in Uganda, Tanzania and other regional markets to study existing laws and regulations.
Dr Maina said brokers, mostly wealthy business people, were taking advantage of an inefficient supply chain for the perishable farm produce.
In January, the county administration raised the red flag after learning that middlemen were buying a 150kg bag of carrots at Sh1,000 and disposing of the same in neighbouring counties for Sh3,500 a bag despite the high cost of production.
A farmer Collins Kamau told KNA that those who failed to sell to the brokers were often unable to find other buyers hence leaving their carrots to rot in the farms.
“We have good weather patterns that improve the quality and quantity of our carrots, but we need better ways to deal with brokers who continue to exploit farmers,” said Kamau.
Other farmers claimed some unscrupulous brokers were demanding that they pack the carrots in 350kg extended bags.