Farmers want high taxes levied on potato imports
Potato farmers from Nyandarua County are now calling for higher taxes targeting imports in a bid to cushion local producers. In the wake of the international fast-food chain KFC saga, they noted that high prices of fertiliser and chemicals, coupled with low prices continued to be a great challenge.
In the last couple of days, the issue of potatoes has dominated the media after KFC, which deals with French fries and chicken, admitted running out of potatoes. According to the group leader George Kimani, potato farming employs hundreds of farmers in Nyandarua and is a source of livelihood for many. Kimani urged the current and future governments to enact policies that promote local farmers and traders of potatoes.
“Heavy tariffs and taxes on imported potato and other farm produce should be imposed on multi-internationals that are not convinced of buying local farm produce,” he said.
To strengthen their voice, the farmers registered Kenya National Potato Growers and Traders Association. “Potato is the second most-consumed food in Kenya after maize but farmers lack a market and continue to suffer huge losses due to high costs of production. Going forward, we want to speak from a united front,” he said.
Kimani added that last year they filed a petition to challenge the implementation of the Irish Potato Regulations of 2019 which was enacted without public participation.
“After filing the petition and negotiating with some of the implementers of the regulations, the harassment of farmers, transporters, dealers, and traders has reduced,” he said. The chair of Nyandarua South potato dealers Mark Wahome said it was critical to form a Potato Board of Kenya to regulate research, seed production, marketing, and value addition.
He noted that farmers were tired of harassment by the county enforcement officers and the police over the rules to be followed.
“The law requires that we register and get licenses from the county to ferry the produce and this is expensive. Such laws are killing the sector that employs thousands,” he said.
This was echoed by farmer Samuel Kiarie who said that farming potatoes was being treated like a crime yet it is an important economic activity.
“The regulations will kill the production of potatoes and the livelihood of farmers who have relied on this crop for years,” he said.
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