Kenyan is facing a 1.7 million tonnes shortage of Irish potatoes thus pushing the price of the commodity up by at least 25 percent.
The shortage, which has been linked to over-reliance on uncertified seeds has forced hotels and other potato traders to depend on imports.
The hospitality industry is the most affected and households which make potato chips and crisps thus reason behind increased prices foods.
However, the national government says that in a bit to make the country self-sufficient, farmers must use certified seeds to increase production.
A bag of potatoes now costs 5,800 shillings in Nairobi up from 3,500 shillings.
A plate of chips that was going for 50 shillings is now being sold at 80 shillings in most hotels and restaurants across Nairobi. Some eateries which sold a plate of chips for 100 shillings have increased the price to 150 shillings.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri said that by 2020, the ministry is working on ensuring that the deficit is met by 2020 through ensuring that farmers use certified seeds.
In 2017, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) and potato breeders introduced a total of 53 new varieties of Irish potatoes that were said to have met the required standards set by the international fast food joints.
To date, the total production of basic seed is at 6,700 metric tonnes, short of the 30,000 metric tonnes required.
Once done, farmers can harvest 10 tonnes of potatoes, up from 4.4 tonnes and equivalent to 88 bags from one hectare.
Available figures indicate that Kenya’s potato industry has an annual turnover of 46 billion shillings and supports livelihoods of over three million farmers.
Kenya produces an annual average of 1.3 million tonnes of Irish potatoes.
The list of potato seeds certified by the government include SARPO MIRA, MANITOU, SAVIOLA — all Irish potato seeds, imported by Danespo A/S and Agrico UA East Africa Ltd. These varieties are suitable for Timau, Tigoni, Molo, Narok, Bomet and Timboroa, Kenya’s key potato growing regions.
In 2017, Kenya imported potatoes worth 81.3 million shillings and back in 2012, Kenya signed an agreement with the Netherlands for the importation of Irish potatoes as Kenya looked to add value to its locally produced potatoes.
Irish potato is the second most important crop in Kenya after maize in terms of consumption. It is grown by nearly 500,000 small-scale farmers on 120,000 hectares and with an average yield of 7.7 tonnes per hectare.
It is grown by more than 800,000 farmers, generating more than 50 billion shillings in revenue for the country.
Distribution of production includes household consumption (10 percent), fresh potato markets (70 percent), seed potato (18 percent) and processing (2 percent). Per capita consumption in potato growing areas is 116 kilograms while in other areas it is 30 kilograms.
Although potato marketing from producers to traders is on a willing buyer-willing seller status, the traders are blamed for the low prices especially during harvesting time with producers always claiming that they are being exploited by the middlemen.
However, the fact that Irish Potato is planted at the same time by many farmers and harvested at the same period creates a temporary surplus. Due to its high perishability and inadequate proper storage facilities, farmers are forced to sell the produce at a throwaway price to get rid of it which in turn leads to great losses.