KENYA – Potato farmers in Kenya are expected to earn more in coming months after six-potato-growing counties i.e. Nakuru, Nyandarua, Narok, Elgeyo Marakwet, Uasin Gishu and West Pokot signed a deal to enforce the 50 kilo bag rule.
They further agreed to work together with all stakeholders to identify and gazette potato collection points as well as marketing centers in the counties.
This is aimed at ending decades of exploitation by brokers who have always promoted the use of extended bags weighing between 180kg and 200kg, then buy them a general price without considering its weight.
“We agreed to join hands because the potato sector is a huge contributor to the economy, worth up to Ksh 70 billion (US$636m) annually and has a potential of Ksh 200 billion (US$181m). We recognize that 1 million farmers benefit from potato growing and the crop supports 3.5 million value chain actors.
“Recently, the Council of Governors submitted a list of crop inspectors who are expected to implement these regulations. We ask the National Government, through the Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), to gazette the inspectors to enable them to begin their work immediately,” said Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui.
The counties also indicated that they will work closely with law enforcers and the Judiciary to ensure full compliance with the rule by the industry players.
“We agreed to join hands because the potato sector is a huge contributor to the economy, worth up to Ksh 70 billion (US$636m) annually and has a potential of Ksh 200 billion (US$181m).”Nakuru Governor – Lee Kinyanjui
Recently, a group of 17 traders had moved to court seeking to quash a 2014 directive by the Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) that potatoes only be packaged in bags not exceeding 50kg, terming it unconstitutional since they were allegedly never consulted.
They also wanted the court to issue an order stopping the police from arresting and prosecuting them on the basis of having potatoes packed in gunny bags exceeding the limit.
But the court indicated that in issuing the directive AFA was simply restating the law and therefore the directive was valid.
Already, in Nakuru, in a move aimed at taming the middlemen, the county administration has recruited some 28 crop inspectors to enforce the potato packaging regulations with offenders to be fined up to Ksh500,000 (US$4,500) or jailed for one year or both.
Meanwhile, the government of Kenya has announced that potato-cold storage facility under construction in Meru will be operational by end of February.
The facility is one of the three cold-storage plants the country is establishing at a cost of Ksh. 100 million (US$910,000) each, with the other two located in Olkalou in Nyandarua County and Kisii to store bananas.
This will enable farmers to store their harvest up to six months until they are offered deserving prices for their produce and reduce post-harvest losses.
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