Kenya has the potential of producing an average of 9 million metric tons of potato under ideal conditions; however, the sub-sector is faced with myriad challenges including unscrupulous traders and brokers who are exploiting farmers.
Well, that is about to change. The government is looking to restructure the industry to get rid of these traders among other challenges hindering the production of potatoes in the country to allow farmers to enjoy good returns from their produce.
The ministry has announced that it plans to ensure that the maximum weight per unit package shall be 50Kgs from a whopping 110kg plus that is the trend in the market.
According to Mwangi Kiunjuri, the Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary, there will be no more exploitation of farmers and undercutting of potato prices.
“Our goal is to protect farmers against exploitation by brokers and bogus dealers and ensure ethical business practices are followed to the letter to guarantee order and prudent business ethics,” said Kiunjuri in a statement last week.
The new regulations were launched last week under Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations, 2019.
The CS noted that the aspects of the new regulations are to ensure optimum potato production, reduce post-harvest losses and expand the market.
He also reiterated that the rules will feature tough fines imposed on any intermediary who harbors unethical business practices.
“For example, a person who contravenes the outlined regulations commits an offense and shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a period not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding 5 million shillings or both,” Kiunjuri said.
Farmers have, for a long time struggled with losses resulting from improper storage and wd for a post-harvest loss that ranges between a tune of 30 to 40 percent, it means that approximately 13 billion shillings are lost by the sub-sector every year as potatoes move from the farmer to the market.
One other challenge that is affecting the sub-sector is the planting of short life potato varieties. These varieties rot easily and given the fact that farmers have not the state-of-the-art facilities for storage, most of the produce doesn’t make it to the market.
Consecutively, farmers are largely faced with transport challenges as a result of poor infrastructure across various counties. The roads are poor and no one is helping.
Initially, the government had tried to implement the regulation requiring farmers to package their potatoes in 50kg bags but the plan failed due to cooperation reluctance by some industry players.
The new rules will finally allow farmers to tap on the potential and realize better growth. As Kiunjuri noted, it is geared towards promotion, development, and regulation of production and trade in Irish potatoes.
Anthony Muriithi, Agriculture and Food Authority Interim director general, stated that the new implementations will stimulate more growth in the sub-sector as well as productivity while improving income for farmers and other value chain players.
“We expect the rules to trigger high investment especially from the local investors and inculcate a culture of adhering to market required standards and quality,” he said.
Currently, Kenya’s potato production stands at 10 tons per hectare as opposed to a potential yield of over 350 tons per hectare.
According to statistics, the area under potato in the country has been ranging between between120,000 and 170,000 hectares.
The Potato Council of Kenya (PCK), also notes that the industry has 15 active processing companies that are operating 50 percent of their installed capacity. More than 40 licensed companies are either dormant or lack the capacity to process the produce.