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Modern market to ring-fence farmers, traders now underway

Kenya farmers have for a long time been fleeced by unscrupulous middlemen, and consumers burdened with inordinately high costs. A direct farmers market is set to change all that. Stories like this are covered in an agro-innovation publication by Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board. Agro-Innovation Transforming agriculture towards sustainable development


April 17,2019, Nairobi. Nairobi is gearing up for a direct farmers market set to open its doors in June. This will be the first time in Kenya a market that specifically targets farmers and consumers is being established.

Although fresh markets exists, even when appropriately named “Wakulima” they are a haven of brokers and long chain of traders, a chain that affects the price and quality produce by the time they reach the consumer. Few farmers, if any, ever know where their products ever g after being loaded into a truck.

For the longest time there has been concern on the value-chain challenge in food marketing, the escalation of cost and fleecing of both the farmer and the consumer with both sided loosing benefit to middlemen. Owing to the lack of seamless transition from farm to fork, there is a lack of supervision to ensure safe food for the local market as opposed to the export market.

A consumer in Germany who buys a Kenyan avocado can, if he so wishes, find out which farmer in the country grew the fruit under strict safety rules established through the strictly-enforced protocols known as Global GAP, or Good Agricultural Practices. These rules have a check list on the location of the farm, the inputs applied and when, as ell as post-handling practices that must observe strict hygiene procedures. A bar code once scanned is able to trace back the product to the farmer, and no exporter is allowed to ship produce without adhering to the traceability requirement. This ensures in the event of problems, the grower is held responsible and banned from the business.

A bevy of institutions such as Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service and the Horticulture Crops Development Directorate have published the rules and regulations expected for every product destined for export. The regulations are enforced by the Kenya Bureau of Standards KS 1758; parts 1 and 11 for flowers and fresh produce respectively. All produce handlers in the value chain have a set of rules on their respective link. If one fails, the whole chain suffers.

Hygiene standards

Locally, no post-harvest handling protocol exists. No hygiene standards are prescribed for what sells in Marigiti, for example. To enter into an export produce pack-house, you must wear protective and hygiene gear from head to toe, disinfected shoes; wash your hands and no touching of product is allowed.

Now, if we can do so much for the export market, why can’t we do the same for the food we eat locally? Speculation is rife about growing vegetables with raw sewage and spraying tomatoes with chemicals meant for control of pests like ticks in cows. The result has been increasing cases of cancer and other diseases from food contamination.

The Nairobi Farmers Market, a pioneering establishment where the typical store owner will be a farmer selected on the basis of their scale of their farming, fidelity to good farming methods adherence to common protocols on safety and hygiene, will change all that.

The management says they will subject all farms, even where a farmer is contracted by the stall-owning main farmer, to sporadic inspections to confirm adherence to good practices.

The market will employ heavy use of technology for both crop performance monitoring and home deliver services vide a mobile APP through which consumers will be able to order produce for home deliveries.

The market will bring together wide range of produce – virtually every agricultural – under one roof. From fresh- produce to dry cereals; daily products to meat; wide array of value- added products, from green teas and fresh juices to yoghurts and many more. Both selling and shopping will be fun; no squeezed shelves or paucity of parking within a classy green environment.

For the first time, consumers will get to sample produce from different counties. The produce will be traceable to the region it was grown. E.g., if a consumer wants pineapples from Homabay, potatoes from Narok or bananas from Kisii, this information will be readily available.

The Nairobi Farmers Market therefore seeks to introduce the global consumer market practices to Kenyans and hopes to grow culture of consuming safe, healthy and nutritious food, and at unbeatable prices at that.

The second phase of the project, to be implemented within a year of the launch of the market, aims at establishing a wholesale facility where a large number of registered farmers across the country can sell the produce directly. They will be expected to also submit to strict farming and post-harvest protocols and non-exploitative pricing policy.

It will be backed up by a raft of modern facilities and technology such as cold rooms for short-term hire, a strategic warehousing section for long-term storage of products such as potatoes and onions, and an enterprise resource planning capability for linking with the market with the farms in order to be aware, in real time about current and forthcoming harvest. The project is being promoted by a local company, United Agromarts Limited.


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