Tomato farmers in central region are now feeding the produce to cows and letting others rot in farms due to an oversupply in the markets which has led to a 95 per cent drop in prices.
In Kirinyaga County, a glut is evident in the farms as ripe tomatoes remain unpicked for weeks leaving farmers at the mercy of brokers buying at throw away prices.
Buyers have reduced the prices from the Sh11,000 they bought a 60-kg crate in May, 2018, to Sh600 and Sh800 for the same quantity now.
Brokers are cashing in on the situation while offering to help desperate farmers clear their farms of the tomatoes.
Even the animals have had enough of the produce, leaving it to rot in the farms.
When Octavia Ngari injected Sh40,000 in his quarter acre farm in Difathas village, Mwea Constituency, and planted tomatoes in June, he expected to earn more than Sh200,000.
“There is nothing I am getting from these tomatoes, they are rotting in the farms because they are ripe but there is no one to sell them to. Even the birds I used to ward off from the farm are no longer consuming them,” he narrated.
Mr Ngari has been farming tomatoes for the last 20 years but says this has been his worst season all year.
“When we take the tomatoes to the market, they are being fed to stray cows and goats because there are no buyers,” he said.
Since Mr Ngari started harvesting the tomatoes late last month, he has only sold three times earning Sh9,000 for portions he would have made more than Sh40,000.
In the market, a kilo of tomatoes is selling at Sh30 dropping from Sh80 and Sh100 marking a 63 per cent drop.
Traders are offering farmers between Sh20 and Sh30 per kilogramme of tomatoes.
The tomato business boom in May enticed hundreds of farmers to venture into tomato farming in Kirinyaga County.
He blamed the problem on lack of a cold storage facility and a food processing factory where there would be value addition for the tomatoes.
“We would be making a killing with a factory since we would use the produce to prepare jams and sauces,” the farmer noted adding that the county government should come up with plans to help farmers in horticultural farming.
Nyeri Agriculture executive Henry Kinyua said they are constructing a storage facility worth Sh60 million in Kieni Constituency, which is the food basket of the county, to cushion the farmers against post-harvest losses.
In Kirinyaga, Governor Anne Waiguru said the county’s mountain cities plans were underway to set up a factory at Sagana industrial park.
“The department of agriculture is developing policies on marketing and value addition to protect farmers from brokers exploitation,” she said.