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State mulls new regulations for potato sub-sector

The government is set to gazette regulations that will bring order in the potato sub-sector starting July 1. Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi  Kiunjuri said the regulations – currently undergoing public participation – will help potato farmers address challenges facing most of them. He said the government is keen to promote potato production through promotion of new varieties and elimination of cartels.

He said that the government has also come up a strategy to fast-track mechanisation of potato farms and establish processing plants and storage facilities. Kiunjuri regretted that the sub-sector is currently grappling with packaging and pricing challenges with unscrupulous traders sidelining the small-scale farmers.

“In order for the sub-sector to play its rightful role in the “Big Four” development agenda, the ministry has formulated a strategy that identifies specific interventions,” he said.

For example, Kiunjuri said the “Agriculture Sector Transformation and Growth Strategy” seeks to ensure increased investments in seed production and multiplication, mechanisation of labour and management of post-harvest losses.

“The sub-sector’s entire value chain is struggling with numerous challenges leading to low productivity and marketing,” he added.

Kiunjuri made the remarks during the recent 3rd annual national potato conference and trade fair meeting at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Karlo) headquarters in Nairobi. He said the ministry has identified potato as one of the key crops that can effectively complement maize – Kenya’s staple food – as a driver of the food and nutrition security.

The CS said under the new  rules farmers will be required to package their potatoes in five, 10 and 50 kilogrammes. The government gazetted new regulations requiring farmers to package their potatoes in 50kg bags in 2014 but the initiative failed since the defunct local authorities and other value chain players did not cooperate in enforcing it in the produce markets.

Currently, cartels at various markets mainly wakulima market, Karatina open air market and other urban centre markets are swindling farmers by buying over 50 Kgs in stretched manila bags at low prices.

Agriculture Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe challenged counties to invest in new potato varieties so as to increase productivity  and enhance the country’s food security.

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