In Summary
  • Midlands Ltd not only adds value at the processing level but also from the farm gate
  • Brokers pay Sh3 per kilo during glut and up to Sh60 when supply is low. Midlands pays farmers Sh12 even during glut

At the heartland of Nyandarua County, an old building is changing the fortunes of thousands of farmers from Meru, Nyeri, Laikipia, Nakuru, Narok, Bomet and Kiambu.

In the building potatoes are peeled, chopped and packaged in vacuum packs for individuals, eateries and, very soon, supermarkets.

Welcome to Midlands Ltd, a potato factory.

The firm not only adds value at the processing level but also from the farm gate. It provides land in case one has none, cultivates and offers advisory services during planting, dressing and harvesting.

Justus Nderitu is one of the 3,000 Irish potato farmers who have reaped from the potato- processing firm. The farmer, who used to grow potatoes on half an acre five years ago, has expanded the acreage to four.

When the factory was set up in 2007, Nderitu was among the few farmers who accepted to give it a try amid fears that it was another plot to exploit the already heartbroken farmers by greedy brokers.

“When I was told that I would be provided with seeds and the land cleared of bushes besides planting, and harvesting services and a ready market, I did not hesitate,” says Nderitu. He has two children in university and two others in secondary schools.

“For sure, these potatoes will take them to the highest institutions of learning,” he says.

The Zangi variety of potato seed goes for Sh3,000 per 100-kilo bag. To plant an acre you need 10 bags (Sh30,000). Ploughing the new land costs Sh6,000.

Production costs, including fertiliser and harvesting expenses, amount to Sh50,000 an acre. Harvesting can be done over four weeks as the crops do not mature at the same time. After the first harvest, the cost of ploughing on the same land falls to Sh3,500.

SEEDS CLEANED

The market loves the Zangi variety for chips and crisps but the seed price is too high for the farmers. Midlands encourages farmers to keep their seeds for three seasons after which they are “cleaned” at the Kenya Agricultural Reserach Institute (KARI). Cleaning refers to a process through which the seeds are chemically treated to kill disease-causing organisms.

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