KFC runs out of imported potatoes for chips, snubs local farmers


A KFC outlet in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Fast food chain KFC has suffered 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 firm’s Chief Executive for East Africa Jacques Theunissen told the Business Daily Monday that the shortage of chips, as they are commonly known, was due to a hitch in global supply of potatoes.

“It has to do with delays in shipping lines due to the Covid situation. Ships have been delayed for more than a month now, but we are working hard to restore as the first containers are arriving in the port tomorrow (today),” said Mr Theunissen.

KFC, which operates locally through franchisee Kuku Foods East Africa, does not source potatoes locally on global quality standards.

The firm added that it cannot bypass the approval procedures to allow local farmers to supply to fill in the gap.

“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 said.

This is set to deny local farmers whose product goes to waste during harvesting seasons the chance to reap from the lucrative tenders, especially during shortages like this. It is also not clear why it has taken the company more than 10 years to vet local farmers or support value chain to meet its standards like the case with other multinationals.

KFC said that during the period when French fries will not be available in its outlets in Kenya, customers will be offered swap options with items such as chicken, buns, soda, coleslaw and ugali for combo meals.

This comes at a time potato has become the second most important food crop after maize, grown by 800,000 small-scale farmers and generating employment for an estimated 2.5 million people along the value chain. It is estimated to contribute more than Sh50 billion to the Kenyan economy.

The International Potato Center (CIP) argues that improved potato production has the potential to significantly boost farm incomes. China is the world’s largest producer, harvesting more than 73 million tonnes of the commodity a year.

KFC is grappling with the shortage of the popular fries at its local outlets at a time Kenya has seen increased interest from global fast-food outlets such as sandwich chain Subway and ice cream seller Cold Stone Creamery.

Rising disposable household incomes, fast economic growth and a young population are attracting global players to emerging markets, according to a study by McKinsey.

Nairobi also hosts multiple multinational organisations, attracting the global restaurant operators.

Apart from walk-in patrons, KFC is also reaping revenues from its delivery services.

The company made 30,000 food deliveries in Kenya in November 2018 alone, contributing to 60 percent of the total deliveries in the East African region.

KFC started operations in Kenya in 2011.

In East Africa, it also has shops in Uganda and Rwanda. The total number of outlets operated by the fast food chain in East Africa are 35. However, there are more than 24,000 KFC outlets in more than 145 countries and territories around the world.