Irish potato farmers are calling on the government to implement various regulations to guard them against exploitation by middlemen.
The farmers claim that the sub-sector is at the mercy of unscrupulous cartels, making it impossible for them to break even in their business.
Through sub-sector lobby, Kenya National Potato Farmers Association (KNPFA), the growers are calling on ministry of Agriculture to implement legislations to check on exploitation as well as save the country from relying on imports of certified seeds from South Africa and Egypt.
“Farmers are a frustrated lot because legal notice number 44 of 2005 on standardisation packaging of potatoes, which recommended 110 kilogramme packaging, has not been adhered to because middlemen still insist on buying the crop at farm gate using 150 kilogramme to 280 kilogramme bags” said lobby group chairman, Mr Patrick Njogu.
The lobby also claims that another legal notice number 113 of September 2008, which required local authorities to provide a clean environment in their market stalls, among other requirements, has not been adhered to.
“It is astonishing that even the additional weight in the current packaging cannot be reflected in the payment for the same as the price still remains to be between Sh1,500 and Sh1,800 for the 150kg bag,” noted Mr Mwamba, a KNFA official.
“During potato seed harvesting, many farmers incur losses due to uncontrolled packing methods in the 12 crop growing counties where a cartel of middlemen control all marketing channels,” Mr Edward Mwamba said.
The industry employs 800,000 growers who farm 109,000 hectares. Each farmer has a capacity to produce 40 metric tonnes of potatoes per hectare.