Boost for potato farmers after county, US firm ink export deal

Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia (right) with the President of an American based company SimpliFine, President Mr Steve Carlyon. [The Standard]

Farmers in Nyandarua County will benefit from lucrative contracts to grow premium varieties of potatoes for domestic use and export.

Starting next month, SimpliFine, a local processor and partner of American BlackIvy Group will recruit the farmers to supply Markies and Shangi varieties of potatoes.

SimpliFine supplies potatoes to the local franchise of the American fast-food chain, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), which recently committed to start sourcing potatoes locally.

During a meeting with Governor Francis Kimemia at the County Government headquarters in Ol’Kalou, SimpliFine President Steve Carlyon agreed to engage farmers to come up with an off-take plan.

Mr Carlyon said his company’s commitment to engage Nyandarua’s farmers follows an earlier engagement Governor Kimemia held with KFC CEO Mr Jacques Theunissen.

He said his company, which recently commissioned a new processing line that will expand its production of frozen fresh potatoes, will partner with farmers to satisfy local and international markets.

“We want to ensure that by April, we will have signed contracts with farmers in Nyandarua. We are working with the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries to identify farmers who are ready to grow the required varieties while adhering to established standards,” said Mr Carlyon.

He said apart from the Kenyan market where high-quality potatoes are in high demand, the company had received inquiries from Indonesia, among other countries.

“My company is keen to contract farmers to grow the tubers throughout the year as opposed to the current cycle where there is glut during the rainy season,” he said.

Governor Kimemia said SimpliFine’s gesture was good news for potato farmers who have suffered immensely for a lack of a proper market.

He announced the County Government’s readiness to work with the processor to utilise the recently constructed cold storage plant in Ol’Kalou to prevent post-harvest losses.

“I am elated that the engagement we had with KFC early this year is starting to bear fruits. Our farmers will now be able to supply potatoes at an agreed price,” he noted.

The County boss reiterated his commitment to support Nyandarua’s vibrant cooperative movement in creating market linkages.

“Through our potato tissue culture project in Ol’Jororok Sub-County, it will now be possible to rapidly multiply any seed variety required by the market. We are using the latest technology to produce quality seeds at the seed multiplication unit,” he said.

Meanwhile, farmers are still being exploited by middlemen buying the commodity in extended bags, The Saturday Standard can reveal.

This is despite the much-hyped signing into law by the government of the Potato Law two years ago. 

The law requires that the product be sold in 50-kilogramme bags and not the extended bags which weigh over 110 kilogrammes.

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