The Nairobi Farmers Market was launched in February 2021 giving hope to a lot of farmers who would have to cut out middlemen and reap desirable and deserved profits from their produce. For years, middlemen have made millions without breaking a sweat, this prompted a group of farmers to set up the establishment along Kiambu Road in a bid to sell their produce directly to the consumer.
The market which was open for trial runs as early as December 2020, brought an array of hope to consumers as well, since it would avail fresh produce directly from farms at affordable prices. Consumers were also excited about the fact that the foods would be healthy, especially with the growing concerns over the safety of produce preserved using various methods in retailers.
After its official launch, the establishment became home to an assortment of businesses including a grains superstore specialising in pure Mwea pishori rice and many other cereals, prime cuts butcheries, which include a specialised pork shop, a fish centre, dairy and poultry centre, pharmacy, wines and spirits shop and many other facilities.
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The establishment also had a restaurant for both sit-in and takeaway meals, as well as snacks.
NFM’s management put in place several measures to ensure the safety of products. This included the vetting of farmers in the market to ensure they follow good agricultural practices in the production, harvesting, storage and transportation of their produce.
During an interview with Citizen TV, Jeff Mundia, NFM’s General Manager expressed optimism about the success of the venture, since it was a first of its kind in Kenya, and would guarantee better profits for farmers by eliminating middlemen.
NFM went further to verify the source of water used by the farmers to ensure that only good, clean water is used for irrigation. Farmers were also expected to comply with a common quality charter to ensure the safety of all the food sold in the market. Mundia noted that part of the objectives of the market was to avail safely handled food and therefore play a part in creating a healthy nation.
“Shoppers and other visitors have expressed satisfaction with the range and quality of products offered here, the freshness and the fair prices. Some of them even call asking for what they need, not believing they can just come and find the product,” he said.
Farmers were also optimistic of the venture, terming it a brake through for some of them that had suffered market frustrations for too long.
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“Within the next two to five years, every Kenyan should be able to get their fruits and vegetables delivered regardless of where they live because the technology and the science is there to allow us to do that.
“That is why vertical farming for us is extremely important. What Nairobi Farmers has done, is to make it possible for the produce to come directly from the farms into the market itself,” a trader said.
The once vibrant Nairobi Farmers Market is a ghost town, one and a half years after it began operations. Businesses within the once-promising establishment have closed.
On Wednesday, June 8, 2022, Kenyans took to Twitter to decry the sorry state of the market, with some raising concerns over its fall from grace, a year after it opened doors to residents along Kiambu Road.
According to netizens who shared images of the deserted establishment, the cost of operating the business had become unbearable, with a majority pointing an accusing finger at the market’s management for charging exorbitant rents. Some alleged that the traders were charged depending on the size of their establishments, with the minimum rent set at Ksh50,000 per month, whereas some paid as much as Ksh100,000.
Currently, only one stall reportedly remains open, and the owner is said to be moving to a new location at the end of June 2022.
“The concept was great, prices were really affordable, and we would get very fresh farm produce. However, I learned that the tenants were paying up to 100k in rent, weh! how many avocados do you need to sell to pay up this rent? Sometimes I don’t understand realtors.
“To clarify, the rent value is calculated based on the size of your store, but still, the lowest is about 50k. Make it make sense,” Wangari, a Twitter user who also shared images of the deserted market posed.
The fall of the market has been pegged on alleged greed by the management, with claims indicating that the high rents drove out the previous tenants, who have since set up shop somewhere else.
Mundia’s Journey to establishing the premise
Mundia had just returned from South Africa where he worked as a development manager when he decided to set up the market. He was inspired to set up the business after he was frustrated while attempting to sell cabbages he had grown at the Githurai market.
He thought that he would just drive to the market, sell his produce, and return home loaded.
“At the market, I was not allowed to offload the cabbages since there were guys who had positioned themselves for the job. They did the job and charged me Sh3,000. I was not allowed sell the cabbages on my own either and after selling on my behalf they charged me Ksh5,000,” Mundia told the Nation during a past interview.
“I went home with Ksh13,000 whereas it had cost me Ksh16,000 to grow the cabbages, Ksh10,000 for transport to the market plus other expenses here and there,” he said.
“Knowing that many other farmers go through the same experience motivated me. I knew there was a big gap that needed to be filled from a business perspective, a major problem that needed solving,” he said.