Ntharene Market is the largest open air banana market in East and Central Africa. Meru Banana Cooperative Society has 4,200 members who take their produce to Ntharene. Traders arrive from as far as Mombasa, Nairobi, Nakuru and Marsabit to purchase these bananas. It is estimated that 400 tonnes of bananas change hands every Monday with a turnover of Sh5 million.

Current Possition of the Market
The Ntharene Market currently operates on both roadsides of the Meru-Nairobi highway at Ntharene Center. The new and modern market will be located around 0.5KM from the current location.
The new Ntharene market project was proposed by the Meru Banana Farmers’
Cooperative Producer organization to strengthen its capacity for management and commercialization in the banana value chain.

Expected Market Impact on Meru’s Banana
Value Chain
i. Improved working conditions for the banana farmers and sellers in Meru County Mary Mburugu, NARIGPs Component 2 lead Meru County, indicated that the farmers and sellers raised concerns over their safety, as well as, the security of their products by the highway roadside. “The farmers through the Meru Banana Farmers’ Cooperative Union proposed the construction of a new modern market to resolve these issues,” Mburugu says.
The new market will be constructed some distance away from the highway reducing the risk of loss of life for the traders. It will also have secure storage space to prevent losses through theft. The market will be roofed and spacious to handle approximately 2000 people every market day.
Mr. Kananua said that he believes that the farmers and their products will no longer have to endure the scorching sun or heavy rains at the roadside as they await the buyers when the market is completed.

ii. Improved Storage and product Quality
Mary, a farmer, says that every buyer wants a banana product that looks green, fresh and pleasing to the eyes. She says, “During the rainy season, the banana gets muddy and in the hot season the banana’s freshness deteriorates quickly, so the buyers pay less for the bananas.” She and other farmers hope that the new market will provide a clean and sheltered, display and storage area for the bananas. This will enable banana farmers to
preserve the quality of the banana.
In his speech, the CPC Mr. Nganga assured the farmers that the market would address these issues. The new market consists of a 1700sqm (half an acre approximately) roofed area, as well as, raised platforms to display the bananas. In addition, the market will have at least 4KM of paved access road and spacious walkways. The new modern market will also have proper drainage systems, an ablution block and ample parking for the traders.

iii. Improved organization and management The Meru Banana Farmers’ Cooperative Union alongside the county government will take over market operations after its completion. According to the PO’s2 chairman, the
market operations will improve because it will be easier to introduce a standardized system for banana trading. For instance, the PO plans to introduce a new buying and selling standard for the bananas based on the weight, as opposed to, the physical appearance. Farmers expressed excitement at the possibility of a new system that will improve their income.
Mary a farmer says that the effort of the banana farmer will finally be recognized under the new system. The CEC also indicated that the county intends to support the new standard as it rewards the value of the farmer.
The organized market will also streamline the revenue collection by the county. The Meru Banana Farmer’s Cooperative Union will also be able to collect revenue from the market and strengthen its capacity as a producer organization.
Market chairman John Mutugi said when the construction is completed next year, users will be shielded from challenges brought about by weather and risks associated with trading on the roadside.

The groundbreaking ceremony
The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Ntharene Banana Market took place on 13th August 2020 at the Ntharene Shopping Center in South Imenti, Meru County. The ceremony was graced by the Meru Governor His Excellency Kiraitu Murungi, the Deputy Governor Titus Ntuchiu, the Meru County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Carol
Mutiga, as well as, other members of Meru County Assembly and County Government.
The crowd of farmers and sellers attending the event was controlled and
limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the representatives
expressed their excitement and gratitude for the construction of the new market.
Muthuri wa Kananua, a banana farmer,said that the new market is a dream
come true for the farmers. “People are often run over by vehicles as they sell their bananas by the roadside. The new market will ensure that people sell their bananas without the risk of losing their lives. The market has been a long awaited community need,” Mr. Kananua said.
The Ntharene Ward MCA, Mr. Mwirigi Kairingia, expressed hope that the market would improve the safety and working conditions for the banana farmers and sellers on the market days. He also expressed hope that the market construction would create employment for the unemployed people and youth in the ward.
“This market will also offer improved food safety and hygiene and reduction of risk losses due to extreme weather and in turn better banana prices,”
said Kiraitu.