Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Peter Munya has said that there is a deal in place for a section of Kenyan farmers to supply potatoes to fast-food chain restaurant KFC.
The revelation by the CS comes weeks after the American fast-food chain said on January 5 that Kenyan farmers can supply it with potatoes for French fries as long as they meet their standards even as pressure mounted on the firm to bring on board local suppliers.
The firm has been grappling with a shortage of potatoes at its outlets in Kenya following delays in delivery from its overseas suppliers, forcing it to offer customers alternative food items in place of French fries.
The CS announced that Kenyan farmers are ready and well equipped to produce the high standard potato varieties that KFC is demanding when sourcing ingredients to make chips for its customers.
“I am proud to say that we have actually agreed with KFC to work together. They have identified the people they want to work with to start rolling out particular varieties that they require and they have partners who do it the way they want it done and I think there is a team already working on the rollout,” the CS said in an address in Mombasa on Wednesday during the 4th intergovernmental Forum for Agriculture.
This appears to confirm earlier remarks by the National Potato Council of Kenya CEO Wachira Kaguongo who said KFC was putting in place synergies with local suppliers to allow them source the commodity from Kenyan farmers.
That is why the CS has urged Kenya farmers who will not be supplying KFC with potatoes to continue cultivating the food crop, citing that only 5 percent of the country’s cumulative potato harvest is used in making chips as such farmers have many alternative opportunities to sell their produce.
“We have crafted a solid plan on how to grow the specific varieties that KFC requires and to also ensure that we have varieties that please the palate of those interested in KFC chips,” he added.
While underscoring that he appreciates other potato varieties cultivated in Kenya, the CS dismissed claims that the country’s potato sector was in a crisis owing to the recent chips shortage debacle experienced at KFC.
“The major crisis in the potato sub-sector is supporting farmers to grow, supporting them to deal with the post-harvest losses and ensuring they reach the market. The post-harvest losses are where the middlemen come to exploit them. When there is overproduction, potatoes are highly perishable which forces farmers to sell them at throw-away prices,” said the CS
The development comes after KFC, in early January; made a statement saying there could be an opportunity to source potatoes from local farmers should they meet its global standards.
During the supply crisis earlier this month KFC chief executive for East Africa Jacques Theunissen said that farmers in Kenya can supply its outlets with potatoes for chips but they must meet KFC’s global quality and safety specifications.
“Although we currently import our French fries, there is an opportunity to source the potatoes from a local supplier that meets the global KFC quality and safety specifications in the near future,” said Mr Theunissen at the time.
“Unfortunately, the quality and safety specifications for new supplies are proprietary to KFC.”
Munya’s announcement is sweet news for local potato farmers whose product goes to waste during harvest . Those who will adhere to KFC guidelines are going to get the chance to reap from the lucrative tenders, especially during shortages like the one that hit the firm recently.