The American fast-food restaurant chain, KFC, which also operates in Kenya, recently hit the headlines after announcing that they cannot buy Kenyan Potatoes.
In an interview with Business Daily, Jacques Theunissen, the CEO of KFC East Africa, explained that their store ran out of stock due to a disruption on the potatoes supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Responding to the question of why KFC cannot buy potatoes produced by Kenyan farmers, Theunissen, cited quality issues linked to locally produced potatoes. According to the CEO, all KFC’s suppliers must undergo a thorough quality assessment process prior to approval and that potatoes produced in Kenya do not meet the global Quality Assurance Approval standards.
“The reason we cannot buy local at the moment is all suppliers need to go through the global QA approval process and we cannot bypass that even if we run out to ensure that our food is safe for consumption by our customers,” He told Business Daily.
Thus, to keep up with international standards and give their customers the same quality and taste, KFC imports most of the raw materials they need for their food products.
Another reason is the limitation in variety. Humphrey Mburu, the CEO for Sereni Fries, speaking during an interview with a local news outlet mentioned that the potato varieties currently grown by many Kenyan farmers cannot be taken through the process needed for the product to meet the global quality standard.
“The farmers need to know the varieties to plant for specific markets,” says Mburu.
Kenya currently has an estimated 800,000 potato farmers. However, the potato farming niche is primarily occupied by small-scale farmers. Most of them have one acre or even less for potato growing. This means a huge potato shortage in Kenya.
But there are many more problems facing the potato sub-sector in Kanya. The majority of smallholder farmers on whom we depend for potato production suffer from inefficiencies caused by high-post harvest losses and low yields.
Further, the lack of relevant farming skills is a big limitation to optimal potato production in Kenya. Most farmers lack good agronomic practices, and thus, are unable to standardize their production. Additional challenges include poor utilization of fertilizers and the impacts of pastes and diseases on crop yield.
Effective farmer training, as well as good use of clean seeds, fertilizers, fungicides, and irrigation, can solve most of these problems.