By Nancy Juma
Stakeholders in the fresh produce sector have backed the establishment of a cargo division and cold chain logistics at the Kisumu International Airport following a consultative meeting with the Lake Region Economic Bloc held today in Kisumu.
The developments will energize boundless opportunities of horticultural, fisheries and meat products from the region by opening up new markets for farmers. The upgrade of Kisumu International Airport to include freight services and cold rooms is long overdue and the heightened conversation from the stakeholders will go a long way in influencing policy makers and implementers.
The stakeholders comprising of National Government Agencies, Kenya Airports Authority, Kenya Railways Corporation, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Revenue Authority and the Fresh Produce Industry and local business communitt in the fresh produce value chain spoke in one voice committing to work together and accelerate the establishment of the of the cargo division and cold chain logistics in Kisumu within the shortest time possible.
According to Lreb Chair. H.E Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, the establishment of the cargo division will address challenges in agricultural exports by securing external markets for available produce. This he says will limit cane dependence among the Lake region counties.
Governor Oparanya urged member counties to diversify investments in agriculture to open up linkages in value addition through shared resources, sentiments echoed earlier by Kisii Governor James Ongwae.
Addressing the consortium, Kisumu Governor Prof. Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o said there is need to rethink agricultural policies from subsistence farming and establish a roadmap towards long-term agricultural production. This he said will not only spur investments and industrialization but will catalyze job creation leading to sustainable livelihoods and reduced poverty in the region.
Governor Nyong’o added that it would be difficult to meaningfully excite productivity if there are no investments in areas that grow interest in primary production challenging county agricultural departments within the bloc to take their work seriously by ensuring that extension officers carry out their duties using the existing administrative structures and facilities.
The growth around the region will impact the value of the local economic development which will in turn translate to growth of the national Gross Domestic Product.
The Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya CEO Mr. Ossegere Ojapat confirmed their commitment to this agenda and said that they eagerly await the first cargo flight to load from this airport noting that he hopes the goods would be locally produced. He urged the LREB Counties to mobilise their farmers to ramp up their production and take advantage of this begging opportunity.
The meeting later resolved to engage the various government agencies involved and unlock regional potential of export and trade, mobilizer growers to take advantage of existing opportunities in fresh produce market, that Lreb counties embark on a campaign on the adoption of modern farming techniques as well as consolidate and package agricultural produce for export. Counties within the nloc have also been encouraged to establish agricultural parks for research and learning and that the CS for Agriculture withdraws the imposition of produce CESS of the 0.25 per cent of the customs value of horticulture exports.
H.E Governor Nyong’o thanked the National government through the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport for committing 1.2 billion shillings for the upgrade of passanger capacity of Kisumu Airport from the current 500,000 to about 1 million in time for Africities Summit.
Others joining the Governors for this special gathering were Deputy Governors from Kakamega Prof. Philip Kutima, his Kericho counterpart Susan Kikwai, CEOs of various agencies, National and County Officials among others.
s part lauded the county government for supporting the Catholic Health facilities by seconding doctors to their facilities.
They agreed on a framework to structure their engagements through an MOU on identified areas of mutual interest.
The Governor was joined by his Deputy Dr. Mathew Owili while the Arch Bishop was accompanied by Catholic Reverend Fathers:Vincent Ouma,Felix Atinda,Samuel Nyattaya,Francis Konyach and George Odhiambo.