Potato farmers decry exploitation by middlemen despite new rules

A section of farmers in Kinangop, Nyandarua county pack their potatoes in extended bags. [File, Standard]

When the government announced the gazettement of the Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations, 2019, it was good news to potato farmers.

Samuel Kiambati, a farmer at Kinangop in Nyandarua County, hoped that at last, he will get the value for his money as he will sell his produce in kilogramme units and not the abnormally extended bags which measure over 110 kilogrammes.

“At last the era where we used to sell the potatoes in extended bags commonly known as shonelea would come to an end. We would dictate the price of our potatoes upon reaching the market and hence make a big profit,” he said at the time.

To him, the era of middlemen buying the products in extended bags and later converting them to 50-kilogramme bags upon reaching the market to make double profits would also have come to an end.

Just like him, many farmers were optimistic that the government had at last found a solution to their problems.

The regulations which were gazetted by then Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri require that every potato farmer must register with the county government for the purpose of its marketing. Small growers are also required to register with a growers association.

But to the surprise of many farmers, this has not happened three years down the line.

The farmers now remain being exploited by middlemen who to date buy the produce in extended bags just like there before.

“We have not seen any effort by any government agency to control the packaging as the law stipulates. The middlemen insist to buy in extended bags and hence keep on exploiting us since we have no other choice,” lamented Jane Njeri, a farmer in Kipipiri.

She says no county official has consulted them on which way to go in their registration as the law requires.

“We have not been registered either as the law requires for the county government to find the market for the produce. Our potatoes still rot in farms as a result,” she added.

Many farmers now fear they will continue to make losses and now want the relevant government agencies to intervene.

 Nyandarua Governor Kiarie Badilisha says governors from potato-growing counties are in consultation to see to it that the law takes place simultaneously.

“There have been problems here and there but we want to make sure that the law is effected fully. We have our officers on the ground who are making sure that the potatoes are not sold in extended bags. The era of exploiting our farmers is long gone,” he said.