American fast food retail giant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has said it cannot share the quality standards that Kenyans wishing to supply it with potatoes must meet due to proprietary restrictions.
In the latest blow for farmers who were lining up to bid for the lucrative deal, the food chain in a response to the Business Daily said it does not disclose such information.
“We do not disclose proprietary information around sourcing and pricing,” the firm said in response to Business Daily questions on the required standards for farmers wishing to take up the supply challenge.
KFC this week relaxed its earlier stand on using only imported potatoes for chips, saying Kenyan farmers can supply so long as they meet their global quality and safety specifications. It relaxed its position after furore that lasted more than 24 hours on various social media platforms.
But the firm declined to disclose those standards in a move set to lock out hundreds of potato farmers interested in the supplies contract.
The firm added that in as much as their frozen chips are currently imported into Kenya, they have been on a journey to identifying a local supplier that has the processing, tracking and cold chain management capability to supply it with chips.
It maintained that it has been working closely with local suppliers and farmers across its supply chain with a view to supporting the growth and sustainability of the local economy in the countries they operate in.
“We remain committed to championing locally sourced KFC ingredients and supporting local business,” said KFC.
The firm is facing 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.
KFC customers are currently offered swap options with items such as chicken, buns, soda, coleslaw and ugali for combo meals due to lack of chips.
It is also not clear why it has taken the company more than 10 years to vet local farmers or support the value chain to meet its standards like the case with other multinationals.
This comes at a time potato has become the second most important food crop after maize, grown by more than 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.
National Potato Council of Kenya CEO Wachira Kaguongo says that KFC should introduce the verities they want in Kenya so that farmers can buy them and grow for onward supply.
The firm, he said, can as well find out the variety here that they can use and support farmers to meet the standards they want.
“We are happy that KFC has rescinded their earlier stand on local supply of potatoes into their Kenyan outlets. We have been lobbying to supply them with potatoes. We don’t mind meeting their standards,” said Mr Kaguongo.