Kenyan potatoes may soon find their way to multinational food giant KFC. A consortium to make this a reality has been formed and signed an MOU.
It brings together companies that bring on board domain expertise in all matters potatoes, to ensure the value chain right from the quality of seed to the farmer financing and eventually to the food plate is consistent with the highest quality standards.
The consortium of like-minded companies that play within the potato value chain, is addressing current barriers that potato farmers face, by enabling access to affordable and quality inputs, credit and sustainable markets.
The partners within the consortium have developed modular solutions that will help farmers increase potato yields through the use of appropriate input packages.
The biggest potato producer county in the country Nyandarua was represented by Governor Kiarie Badilisha.
Yara will offer crop nutrition and soil testing solutions while Agrico PSA- will be tasked with the provision of seed varieties that are high yielding and appropriate for various uses. Bayer will provide crop protection solutions.
The Co-operative Bank of Kenya will provide capacity building support to the county government and co-operative societies to enable them form and run strong, efficient and well governed potato cooperatives. The bank will also provide affordable financing options for the farmers to ensure timely access to quality inputs, water, mechanization and post-harvest solutions.
Simplifine Ltd who are potato suppliers to KFC will then buy the potatoes.
Last year in January Kenyans were shocked when they learnt through the media that KFC had run out of supplies for customers following the non-delivery of potatoes from their overseas suppliers. That potatoes for consumption by Kenyans had to be imported was a major surprise amidst the perennial woe and cry by Kenyan potato farmers, especially in the potato-glut zone of Nyandarua for lack of market for their produce.
KFC was equally shocked by the sharp public rebuke, and together with other stakeholders has been working quietly behind the scenes to put in place mechanisms for a farmer-anchored sustainable supply chain for potatoes.
“One of the greatest challenges we have had is on market access. It is a sad paradox that we continue to import potatoes for our high-end food chains when our farmers in Nyandarua, who are the leading producers, are struggling to get quality value for their produce. With these interventions, we are edging closer to completely transforming farming in this county,” Governor Badilisha said.
The Co-operative Bank was represented by the Head of Agriculture Business Esther Kariuki while Agrico had Corien Herweijer. Bayer East Africa had Eunice Waithaka while Steven Carlyon signed on behalf of Simplifine Ltd. Carol Mumo represented Yara East Africa.
Potato plays a key role and is among the top 5 important crops in Kenya, with approx. 450,000 acres of potatoes planted per year. The average productivity from studies conducted is 3 tons /acre, making it a loss-making venture for farmers; industries within the potato value chain have growth limitations.
However, with the joint efforts of the partners in the consortium, they say the productivity can improve to approx. 14ton/acre, with this contributing to food security and through a consistent supply of potatoes, industries can grow.
Four counties have been approached in the first half of 2023. These are Nyandarua, Nakuru, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nyeri.
The consortium says they hope that by 2026, this partnership will benefit 30,000 potato farmers in Kenya, improving yields by 50% and reducing post-harvest losses by at least 50%, thereby delivering prosperity for farming communities.
The key gaps targeted to be addressed include agronomy, commercial and digital knowledge, access to finance and market.