BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) has promised to develop machinery tools and marketing structures aimed at improving the coconut value chain for the Coast region farmers.
Speaking during a three-day programme for the manufacturing training at the Mombasa JKUAT Campus recently, acting deputy vice-chancellor (Administration) Prof Bernard Ikua said after the interaction with stakeholders they were set to change the coconut sector to a competitive industry globally.
“Present situation of the coconut sector needs value chain of its end products and together with the stakeholders we hope to turn it around so that it can get its industry share globally,” he added.
The university has started a five-year research programme on the sector to ensure all those involved in the industry not only improve their coconut products but also exposed to technologies along the value chain.
Poor marketing structures for sector’s products or by-products, according to the professor, will only be sorted out through sound processing, storage, transportation and warehousing of produce destined for markets.
“We want Kenya’s coconut products to go beyond the country’s borders and target the international market like Congo, Nigeria, USA or Norway,” he said adding that within their programme they expect to establish the potential of the industry.
Prof Willy Muturi, who dealt in record-keeping and business finance during the training, asked the participants to use their acquired knowledge to spruce their businesses for increased incomes.
He challenged the small-and-medium enterprises (SMEs) to brand their products properly so as to attract the local markets through mega-supermarkets chains operating in the country.
The university, he said, will create machinery that will go hand-in-hand with their income from the total coconut production annually so as to be cost effective.
“An entrepreneur who fails to plan, plans to fail in whatever they endeavour. Therefore, you must have a business plan for you to succeed in whatever you do,” he said challenging the stakeholders to register their brands with Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs).
Coast region Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) marketing officer Florence Rono asked the participants of the training to take advantage of it and publicise their products to attract a wider market base.
Currently, she noted the marketing channels are generally dominated by traders and middle people who play an important role in getting farmers’ produce to the market.
“I believe this partnership with JKUAT will be an eye-opener to most of us so that we avoid exploitation by middle people who most times offer low prices or poor terms of payment,” she said.
The present situation of the coconut sector indicate that more than 150,000 householders rely on the coconut palm for their livelihood from key products including toddy, industrial oil, edible oil, coconut milk, desiccated coconut, makuti, brooms, artifacts, cosmetic, textile and healthcare.
Locally, the known annual exploited value is Ksh3.2 billion whereas the realizable potential is estimated at Ksh13.2 billion from the approximately population of 10 million of coconut trees in the Coast region.
Again from 2009, the coconut sector has witnessed major decline in the last two decades resulting into coconut farming ceasing to be a major cash crop source of income for many a families in parts of Kwale, Mombasa and Kilifi counties.
In the latest Coconut Industry 2019 Global Market Research report (March 28, 2019), the coconut market is valued at US$ 10100 million in 2018 and will reach US$16500 million by the end of 2025.