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January 16, 2008

Kenyan french bean farmers suffer unrest-linked losses

Horticultural farmers in Kenya's Murang’a North and South Districts have lost millions of shillings since the post-election unrest begun.

Most affected are French beans growers who have depended on the crop as the sole source of income for years. Thousands of tonnes have gone to waste due to lack of markets and storage facilities, while middle men take advantage of the situation to give the farmers a raw deal.

The area has about 23 French beans buying centres.

Before the skirmishes, each of the centres was handling an average of 1,200 kilogrammes of the produce daily.

“We invested heavily, hoping to catch good markets in January and February that would help us raise school fees for our children and meet other requirements,” said Ms Agnes Wanjira. Like many other farmers in the upper side of Murang’a North District, she diversified from coffee to French beans’ farming, due to better and faster returns.

Farmers say major buyers have not bought the produce since the day of elections. Though the farmers would have wished to sell the beans to brokers at throw away prices, the middlemen traders could not cope with the high supplies and only bought a little.

“Most of these traders sell in the normal local markets and could not buy in bulk. They offered as little as Sh10 per kilogram compared to major buyers like Frigoken Company that paid Sh30 per kilo of the beans,” said Ms Wanjira from Mugoiri.

The beans require frequent picking to maximise production and turn into waste if not harvested in time. After picking, they need to be stored in a freezer, something the farmers do not have.

“Buyers tell us they would be taking a risk in buying the beans since they are not guaranteed of delivering the purchases to their stores and other destinations,” Mr Irungu said.

Daily Nation

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