In Summary
  • The farmer has been growing the crop for three years but the unpredictable weather and low market prices are giving him a hard time.
  • Finding market for his produce is another big challenge that he has to contend with because potatoes are among the few crops that farmers do not sell directly to consumers.
  • Reyaz Uddin, the manager of Norda Industries Ltd, a food processing company behind the Urbanbitez crisps, noted that there is a huge market for potatoes.
  • Wachira Kaguogo, an agricultural economist and the CEO of National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), reckoned that there is a disconnect along the potato value chain, whereby farmers have no idea of what the market needs and where to find the market while processors, on the other hand, have no idea where to find the products.

Joseph Kamau, an Irish potato farmer from Nyandarua County, grows the crop on two acres.

The farmer has been growing the crop for three years but the unpredictable weather and low market prices are giving him a hard time.

Frost, drought and heavy downpours are among extreme weather conditions that worry him.

Potatoes take about four months to be ready for harvesting, thus, can be grown twice a year.

“Frost affects the crop especially when it is blossoming. At that stage, the flowers will drop, thus, they will not fruit,” Kamau, 28, narrated during a recent potato forum at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro), Kabete in Nairobi, adding that during high rainfall seasons, the tubers rot.

Potato prices depend of three major factors

Experts at the forum advised him and other farmers to grow trees around his farm to shield the crops from frost.

Finding market for his produce is another big challenge that he has to contend with because potatoes are among the few crops that farmers do not sell directly to consumers.

Middlemen buy from them at throw away prices, mostly on the farm because they are bulky to transport.

“Ferrying potatoes to the market is hectic, so we would rather sell to middlemen at between Sh1,500 to Sh2,000 per sack than incur huge transport costs,” said Kamau.

Potato farmers were advised to form groups which they can use to bulk their produce and cut transport expenses.

Potato prices depend largely on three factors, according to Kamau. Those are who is buying it, its availability in the market and the sizes of the produce.

“We have been growing the same potato seeds over and over again by recycling seeds, the harvest is now dwindling,” said Kamau, who grows Shangi variety.

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