Lack of certified seeds, pests and disease infestation, fluctuating market prices, and exploitation by brokers are some of the issues bedevilling the potato sub-sector in the Rift Valley region.
Despite the government having standardised the packaging of farm produce at 50 kilogrammess, brokers do not adhere to the rule and counties have consistently failed to implement the policy over the last six years.
“From Bomet, Kericho, Narok, Nakuru, Uasin Gishu, and Nyandarua, the story is the same; exploitation, huge investments and losses by the farmers but huge profits raked in by middlemen who control the markets,” said Mr Joshua Ngeno the national chairman of the Kenya National Potato Farmers Association.
The association has been working with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) and the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Karlo) in providing quality certified potato seeds to farmers in the nine counties that are the main potato producers in the country.
The association that was initiated in 1963 and registered in 1969 aims to train and empower farmers to adopt new agricultural technologies and assist them in marketing their produce.
“It is unfortunate that the government is yet to implement the 50-kilogram bag rule for farm produce with farmers being exploited by brokers who stash between 100 and 180 kilogram bags of the potatoes and buy it for as little as Sh800,” said Mr Ngeno, a large scale grower in Bomet and Narok counties.
PURCHASE IN BULK
He added: “The brokers then repackage the produce in the stores in Nairobi to 50 kilograms before offloading it to the market at between Sh2,000 and Sh4,500 per bag depending on the season.”
“Since agriculture is a devolved function, county governments through the Council of Governors should come up with a common Bill to implement the 50-kilogram rule so as to end the exploitation of farmers,” said Mr Ngeno on Thursday.
The association is also appealing to county governments to purchase in bulk certified seeds and supply the same to small-scale growers at a subsidised rates in order to boost food security.
Former Agriculture minister Kipruto Kirwa tried to implement the directive in 2005 but hit a brick wall just as his predecessor, Mr Musikari Kombo, had failed as the middle men always devised ways of circumventing the directive.