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Potato farmers seek review of packaging laws

50kg bags of potatoes ready for market at Mwen Village in Keiyo South, Elgeyo Marakwet, on August 2, 2021. [Christopher Kipsang,Standard

Farmers want the implementation of Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations 2019 reviewed. The laws were aimed at protecting them from exploitation by middlemen.

Led Edward Kalale, farmers said the laws have seen many of them sink into deeper losses. “Implementation of the new regulations came with a drastic drop in farm gate prices. We had high hopes that the prices would gradually rise and stabilise but this has not been the case,” said Kalale. 

Kalale, who is a small scale farmer in Sirikwa, Kuresoi North said though the prices for their produce kept fluctuating before, there were high seasons which they banked on. 

“The extended bag which was three times the standardised bag would fetch up to Sh3,500. Three standardised bags have been fetching a maximum of Sh1,500 which is now a loss,” said Kalale.  His sentiments were echoed by Benson Mwathi who said the situation has been made worse with the introduction of taxes on farm inputs.

In January this year, the High Court upheld the implementation of Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations 2019. The regulations banned packaging of the produce in bags weighing no more than 50 kilogrammes. “This has led to a significant drop in the productivity of our farms. Organic fertiliser is not readily available for big farms and cannot immediately boost production,” said Mwathi. 

Elijah Koskey said most farmers have been left counting losses after they were unable to raise money for chemicals needed to protect crops against pests and diseases. 

Dominic Kirui urged the government to review the packaging laws and instead set minimum prices.

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