Fresh Produce Consortium (FCO) have backed the plans which seek to make Eldoret International Airport a key export hub to regional and international markets.
FCO Chief Executive Officer Okisegere Ojepat has said as an industry they were committed to ensure export of fresh produce from the North Rift-based airport resumes as early as March 2021.
According to the lobby group, the move will open up productive areas in North Rift and help increase revenue, create job opportunities and diversify export base
“We want to open up and increase exportable agricultural production in the region which will not only increase revenue for the counties, but also to the entire country as well as opening up job opportunities for the youth and women and to diversify the kind of business we are doing,” said Ojepat.
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Speaking in Eldoret during fresh produce stakeholders meeting, Ojepat said they were targeting to start with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that already has two scheduled weekly flights to Eldoret Airport that unfortunately return empty.
“We want to ensure when the planes go back they are loaded with flowers, fruits, vegetables, spices, and herbs from the region,” he added.
Ojepat called on the NOREB counties to organise smallholder farmers into groups to ensure sustainability and continuous production of fresh produce.
“We want to encourage farmers in this region to return to their farms and increase the production of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers, and even fish and meat because there is a readily available market.”
NOREB CEO Dr Dominic Biwott said with the help of County Governments and FPC, NOREB is going to aggregate all the fresh produce farmers to use Eldoret International Airport as an exit point for their products to the global market.
The CEO appreciated the existing facilities available at KPA and the Airport which he observed needed to be activated and urged the government to start the renovation of the existing infrastructure to be readily available when the planned export of fresh produce commences on March.
In his remarks Uasin Gishu Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno, said time was ripe for North Rift to utilize the Eldoret airport as a means of connecting local farmers to the insatiable foreign horticultural markets.
“Already we have a 230-metric ton cold storage facility at the airport while KEPHIS and HCDA have their port offices at the airport precincts, hence there is no reason why the airport should not be cleared for horticultural export,” said Chemno
Chemno further said the reopening of the airport as an export hub was an opportunity for the region to increase exports and increase earnings in the pockets of the farmers by encouraging them to undertake exports of horticultural produce.
“As a county we have been encouraging our farmers to embrace diversification as a way of cushioning the rural folk from being dependent on cereals as a source of income,” he added
Turkana Deputy Governor, Peter Emuria Lotethiro who also attended the meeting alongside Nandi’s Dr. Yulita Cheruiyot said opening up the airport would cut down transport costs and time taken to truck produce to Nairobi by over 50 percent apart from attracting business from parts of Uganda and Southern Sudan.