The National Potato Council and KFC have identified a potato variety that Kenya farmers can now grow to supply the US-based fast-food chain to meet its French fries needs.
Days after KFC received its imported shipment of potatoes that had seen it run out of fries, Wachira Kaguongo, chief executive at National Potato Council, said they agreed in a meeting last week to have farmers plant the Markies variety to cut overreliance on imports.
He said they are now talking to a processor to put up the necessary infrastructure to support the cutting and freezing of chips before they are taken for processing at the restaurant.
KFC, unlike local restaurants, only accepts potatoes that have been peeled, cut to the required and frozen size for processing as chips.
“We are now talking to processors who can freeze and take them to KFC following the move to identify the variety that can be planted,” said Mr Kaguongo.
The official said this requires heavy investment as the processor would need to invest in equipment such as cold rooms and refrigerated trucks for transporting the commodity.
Currently, there are no processors in Kenya producing frozen chips, forcing the multinational franchise to import them from South Africa and Egypt.
The lobby will support farmers with the right agronomic practices to produce quality potatoes.
The council will work with the Kenya Bureau of Standards to come up with the required standards, conduct training that will ensure the produce meets the expectation of the buyers.
The standards will also help in the traceability of the produce, which is key in determining where the potato came from in case of a problem along the value chain.
Supply disruptions that caused a stock out of potatoes at KFC early in the year reignited the debate on why the multinational was still importing potatoes more than a decade after setting up in Nairobi. a
The need to produce the required variety of potato chips in Kenya has been growing with private entities joining the enterprise.
Last year, Juice maker Kevian Limited was licensed by Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation for the production of quality tubers to cut imports.
The licensing will see the Thika-based firm commercialise five of Kalro’s high-yielding potato seed varieties on a 15-year contract to boost production of the right variety required by multinational franchises.