Two potato processing companies in Kenya agree to buy potatoes worth Sh180 million (1.8 million USD) from farmers every year as a shortage hits processors in Kenya.
Tropical Heat - a manufacturer of potato chips - and Sereni Fries - a manufacturer of peeled, cut and blanched potato for preparation of french fries - said they will sign contracts with growers to supply 600 tonnes of potatoes worth Sh15 million every month, ending the perennial struggle of the potato farmers to find markets for their produce.
Navin Shah, the Tropical Heat managing director, said the deal will provide the firm with steady supplies.
Mr Shah noted that though there are plenty of potatoes in the country during harvesting time, most of it does not meet standards for making crisps and chips.
Tropical Heat’s potato demand stands at 80 tonnes per week.
“We often fall short of the required variety of potatoes for processing because farmers are not growing the right type. That is why we have come up with these contracts to maintain our supplies.”
Shortage of certified seeds
Richard Lesiyampe, the Agriculture ministry Principal Secretary, said one of the problems that farmers face is lack of certified seeds.
“There has been a shortage of certified seeds but the government is addressing the issue by importing some from the Netherlands.”
“The ministry imported 250,000 tonnes of potato tubers last year which are being multiplied.”
The potato shortage has been so severe that some processors have been forced to import from Tanzania.
Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (Agra) and Grow Africa have announced a partnership aimed at increasing regional production and supply of potatoes by addressing bottlenecks across the value chain.
A local potato farmer produces five metric tonnes per acre on average, which is 11 times lower than what a farmer in the Netherlands harvests.
Agnes Kalibata, the Agra President, said that they were working closely with stakeholders to boost output to at least 25 tonnes per acre.
The government recently released 22 different varieties of potatoes but processors turned them down saying they were not fit for making chips and crisps.