KFC runs out of potatoes as farmers struggle with oversupply

KFC fast food eatery joint in Lavington, Nairobi. July 28, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), an American fast-food restaurant chain, announced that it had run out of potato fries even as local farmers struggled with an oversupply of the produce.

In a tweet, the fast-food restaurant said following increased demand for their fries over the festive season, the franchise had run out of fries and thus was only serving ugali, chicken, soda, buns and coleslaw.

“Fam it was truly a Furaha December. Mlikula sherehe with your KFC faves (You celebrated with your favourite KFC dish). Ya’ll loved our chips a little too much, and we’ve run out,” said KFC in a tweet.

This even as local farmers continued to experience a glut, with farm gate price of the 90kg bag hitting an all-time low of between Sh450 and Sh600 in Molo, Nakuru County.

Nakuru County, according to the census results of 2019, had the highest number of households that grow potatoes. Other major potato-growing counties include Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kiambu, and Murang’a.

KFC does not use locally produced potatoes to prepare its fries but instead, imports them from Egypt as there is not yet anybody in Kenya who can supply large quantities of pre-cut sliced blanched frozen potatoes.

However, according to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), a visualisation tool for international trade data, the main source of Kenya’s imported potatoes is the Netherlands, which supplies nearly 90 per cent of the tuber.

India was the largest source of imported potatoes globally, supplying 10.4 per cent of the food crop.

Potatoes are Kenya’s second most important food crop, after maize. The quantity of potatoes produced in the country decreased to 1.9 million bags last year from two million bags in 2019, official data shows.

However, a decline in effective demand due to job losses saw a kilo of the crop retail at an average price of Sh67.3 last year, a drop of 5.34 per cent from Sh71.1 in 2019. “People who were eating out find it cheaper to eat from home,” said Dr Timothy Njagi, a research fellow at Tegemeo Institute, a public policy think-tank.

However, the demand for potatoes in fast-food joints surged after the easing of the social distancing rules, peaking in December as Kenyans went for eat outs with friends and families. 

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