Kenya eyes KFC with potato seed imports

A KFC outlet in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and other multinational restaurant chains will in coming years be barred from importing pre-sliced potatoes in a policy shift aimed at boosting local capacity of farmers to supply international eateries.

Co-operatives and Small Enterprises ministry says Kenya has imported the ‘Memphis’ variety of potato seedlings, which were recommended by KFC and were being piloted in leading potato-growing areas.

The seedlings, Co-operatives Cabinet secretary Simon Chelugui said, had been approved by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (Kephis) and Agriculture ministry.

“We have already received them, put them through Kephis processes, they have been approved and now we have introduced those seedlings to our farmers in Nyandarua, Timboroa (Baringo), Molo and Elburgon [Nakuru],” said Mr Chelugui in Nairobi yesterday.

“We believe in future all types of potatoes in KFC [restaurants] and all other international food chains are going to be sourced from Kenya. That will mean more money to our farmers, saving our dollars and promoting our industries.”

Kenyans were in January 2022 alarmed to learn that American-owned KFC, whose franchise in East Africa is held by Kuku Foods, imports potatoes it uses for French fries it serves in its chains, which are popular with urban middle-class households.

This came to fore after the KFC joints ran out of pre-sliced potato imports largely from Egypt.

The fast-food chain, which has been operating in Kenya since 2011, insisted local potato varieties do not meet its international standards and taste.

KFC had at the time, however, indicated it was on a journey to identify a local supplier who has the processing, tracking and cold chain management capability to supply its chain with pre-sliced potatoes.

Memphis variety, which Kenya has imported, is said to be high-yielding, red-skinned type with long dormancy, which makes them suitable for international markets because of longer shelf life.

Mr Chelugui said the ministry was in the process of unveiling the Sh100 million-potato cold storage facilities in Ol Kalou, Nyandarua, which President William Ruto launched on April 6, three years after construction began.

“You people in potato MSMEs should go to those cold storage facilities and begin to chop those potatoes into sizes they (KFC) want, package and deliver them because we now have the breed that they wanted,” the CS said.

“We will stop this business of potatoes going to waste in Kenya.”

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