Kenyan farmers are on the verge of supplying potatoes to the renowned American fast food giant, KFC, thanks to the intervention of Co-operative Bank and other stakeholders who agreed to boost farmers venturing into the profitable and sustainable cash crop farming.
To ensure that local potatoes are up to the required KFC standard, Co-op Bank entered a consortium with other key players in the agricultural value chain to launch The Potato Consortium.
The consortium aims to reduce potato imports which lock local farmers from the market, leading to a loss of income.
“That potato 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 of lack of market for their produce,’’ potato consortium’s comment read in part.
In collaboration with the County Government of Nyeri and other consortium partners Yara E.A, Bayer E.A and Agrico PSA, Co-op Bank, witnessed the harvesting of potatoes at the first Demonstration Farm in Kieni Sub-County in Nyeri on Friday, June 30.
Simplifine Limited, a local food processor contracted by KFC to supply the potatoes, attended the event where crop protection and crop husbandry were put to the test to successfully determine the standard of the produce.
The consortium confirmed that the exercise was successful as the local potatoes satisfied KFC’s desired standards for potatoes used to make fast foods in high demand. Simplifine also assured the farmers that it would trade directly with them to exclude exploitative middlemen.
Plans to conduct similar demos are underway in Nyandarua, Elgeyo Marakwet and Nakuru as the consortium starts enlisting farmers for full-scale production. Co-operative Bank targets enlisting over 30,000 potato farmers by 2026 to boost the lucrative venture.
With the plan set to raise income for farmers and boost the economy, the consortium spearheaded by Co-op Bank highlighted key measures that would ensure potato farming thrives in Kenya.
The bank will finance the potato crop cycle and fund farmers throughout the production, harvest and post-harvest exercises. Funding the programme would boost farmers in their quest to access machines and transport the products in time, thus preventing rotting and reducing post-harvest losses by 50 per cent in the next two years.
It also unveiled a training program titled Co-op Consultancy to facilitate farmers on how to be efficient and earn better returns in the supply of potatoes.
Yara E.A, a fertilizer manufacturer, was tasked with testing the soil and supplying the farmers with crop nutrition, while Agrico will facilitate them with high-quality potato seeds.
County governments also agreed to deploy Ward Agricultural Officers and Cooperative officers to offer the farmers agronomic support. Farms will also be digitized to enhance production and marketing.
Data provided by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates that potato is among Kenya's top five cash crops.