Kitui farmer adding value to mangoes using sun, exporting to international markets

Nestled within the Ithiani village of Changwithya West in Kitui County lies Sun Sweet Fruit Farm Products Limited, a quaint mango processing facility that has emerged as a beacon for farmers eager to enhance the value of their mango harvests.

Conceived by Simon Musyoka, this enterprise harnesses the intense rays of the Kitui sun to craft mango flakes destined for international markets. Musyoka, formerly entrenched in the realm of paint retail and private education in Nairobi, embarked on this endeavor in 2019 with a modest capital injection of Sh5.2 million, pivoting towards mango cultivation.

Presently, the spectrum of offerings from Sun Sweet Fruit Farm Products encompasses an array of all-natural, preservative-free creations, ranging from mango flakes and jams to premium bathing soap and lip balms.

“In our pursuit of solar-dried mango flakes, we not only capitalize on the abundant sunlight but also leverage the innate sweetness of our mangoes, ensuring unparalleled quality,” Musyoka asserts.

Citing the intrinsic sweetness and solar-drying process as differentiators, Musyoka underscores the competitive advantage of his products over counterparts reliant on added sugars for international packaging.

“Kitui and its environs are renowned for yielding some of the world’s sweetest mangoes, boasting sugar content ranging from 13 to 16,” Musyoka affirms.

Yet, amidst profitability, the venture grapples with a medley of challenges: limited financial resources, sluggish market penetration, equipment and labor shortages, and infrastructural deficiencies.

Relying predominantly on loans and grants, Musyoka remains optimistic about the prospect of yielding dividends from his enterprise.

“While the factory has enabled me to meet personal and domestic obligations, there remains a journey ahead to realize its full potential,” Musyoka reflects.

Beyond personal sustenance, his establishment has catalyzed a burgeoning market for mango farmers across the region. Collaborating with over 80 farmers who supply Kent and Apple mango varieties, Musyoka has inked export agreements for mango flakes with two French entities, notwithstanding a loyal clientele base in Nairobi.

Acknowledging the preference for fresh mangoes among locals, Musyoka advocates for educating consumers on the nutritional benefits and extended shelf life of mango flakes, essential for alleviating hunger.

In a bid to empower mango farmers, Musyoka champions the utilization of sunlight for value addition, envisioning a landscape where farmers enjoy consistent income streams and mitigate produce wastage attributable to market vagaries.