Elgeyo Marakwet County in partnership with the UK government and a local entrepreneur will establish a Kshs 2 billion potato factory that will serve the eight North Rift counties.
The factory, to be established in Iten Municipality, will purchase produce from the region and will have the capacity to process 60,000 tonnes of irish potato and sweet potato chips for local and export market.
The project, funded through the UK- Sustainable Urban Development Plan (SUED), was unveiled at Iten during a ceremony attended by British High Commissioner to Kenya H.E. Jane Marriott.
Addressing the occasion, the Ambassador said the agro-investment project will create at least 100 direct jobs as well as supporting small holder farmers get a ready market for their produce.
“With this factory, I am hoping that one day I will be sitting in a restaurant in Britain and I will be served potato chips from this region,” said the envoy.
According to the ambassador, the UK will deliver all its promises under the SUED program in Iten which includes the establishment of the Iten integrated world class sports hub and a groundnut value chain.
The UK government injected Kshs.103 Million seed capital to Select Fresh Produce Kenya Ltd, a local agricultural company, which will establish and run the factory.
The company will on it’s part will invest a total of Kshs. 2.4 billion to the project in the long run which will also include seed variety production and capacity building of farmers on better farming methods.
Once completed, Governor Wisley Rotich said the factory will address the cases of perennial exploitation of potato farmers by middlemen as well as create wealth to the hundreds of potato farmers in the County.
“Elgeyo Marakwet is one of the leading potato producing Counties in Kenya but our farmers have over the years been exploited by middlemen who package the produce as they wish and buy their produce at low prices which they dictate leaving the farming with meagre earnings,” said Rotich.
Eunice Mutua, the Chief Executive Officer Select Fresh Produce Kenya Ltd, the firm undertaking the project exuded confidence that the project would be a successful venture. “Elgeyo Marakwet produces adequate and quality Irish and sweet potatoes to sustain this venture. There are two such factories in Africa and we want to make this factory the third one in the continent to be able to export the value added products to markets abroad,” said Mutua.
She applauded the Ambassador for spearheading the UK-Kenya Free Trade which she said was significant in realizing the objective of exporting Kenyan produce to the United Kingdom.
“Select Fresh which is investing £16 million (2.4 billion Kshs.) into the project will commence the production of 30,000 tonnes of Irish potatoes and 30,000 tonnes of sweet potatoes into fresh and frozen fries in the first year of operation with production increasing to 50,000 tonnes each in five years,” she said.
During the function, the County Government and Select Fresh signed an agreement of cooperation for the establishment of the factory within Keiyo North Sub County.