To ward off unscrupulous cartels that have permeated avocado industry and made themselves a bargaining chip, farmers from Kericho county have formed a cooperative society.
Kericho Avocado Farmers Cooperative Society was presented to the registrar of companies last year by the farmers as an umbrella body to collectively market their produce and enhance productions for their socio-economic wellbeing.
Officiated by the chairperson Asenath Cheptoo, Vice Chairperson Jackson Biegon, Secretary John Koech and Treasurer Korir, the society has 400 registered members spread across Kericho County, with members having mature avocado trees.
Cheptoo said they are targeting over 10,000 unregistered farmers from the entire South Rift region with each having an average of over 80 Hass and Fuerte varieties of avocado.
“The down side of the association is that majority of farmers are cooperators in various organizations and have known the added value of joining the movement. The beauty of it is, majority of us have tested the bitter side of cartels and sweeter side of their fruits in an equal measure,” Cheptoo asserts.
She was talking to the Sacco Review during a consultative forum convened ahead of the April harvesting season that was held at Kapsamumgut Polytechnic in Kapsoit Ward, Ainamoi Constituency. The event was attended by officials and farmers drawn across the region.
In the same vein, the chairlady revealed that marketers, exporters and importers, including locals and international consumers have taken vantage positions ready to do business with the society.
Biegon said the tempo at which the government and none government agencies are constantly monitoring their progress was a telling point that avocado farming has a bright future.
He disclosed that after visiting existing societies for benchmarking, he established that a cold storage facility is estimated at Ksh200 million.
Biegon, who lost fruits worth Ksh60,000 last year to unscrupulous marketers, urged both national and county governments to protect farmers from middlemen.
The society secretary also revealed how he lost fruits worth Ksh300,000 the previous year when a cartel claiming to be from Biofarm vanished.
The same hue and cry story of cartels is replicated as every farmer had a something to tell.
Dr. Wilson Soi advised farmer not to allow any middlemen to enter their farms and appealed to the government to protect them from the dealers.
Soi, also a prominent avocado farmer, called members to consolidate their resources and explore avenues of exporting their fruit, adding value and looking for partners to put up the cold storage facilities.
During the meeting, they resolved to sign contracts with one agent to take their fruit at an agreed price comes next season.
The chairlady disclosed that for one to be a member, he or she must register with Ksh500 and minimum shares of Ksh4,000.
The new society held their maiden Annual General Meeting late last year and was overseen by cooperative officials from the Ministry of Cooperatives.
By Ken Langat
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