Fast food franchises operating in Kenya have been slapped with a 30 percent duty on imports of potatoes used to make French fries, a move that will significantly raise the cost of the end product.
Major fast food joints rely on imports from as far as Egypt and South Africa for the potatoes they use as most that are grown locally do not meet required standards.
Last week, Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani introduced the duty that will apply to crop coming outside the East African Community, arguing that it’s meant to safeguard farmers.
The need to produce the required variety of potato for 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 (Kalro) for production of quality tubers to cut imports.
The licensing will see the Thika-based firm commercialise five of Karlo’s high-yielding potato seed varieties on a 15-year contract to boost production of the right variety required by multinational franchises.
The partnership, Kalro said, was meant to benefit 50,000 farmers in potato growing regions and help meet the current demand of high-quality potato crop in the country.
Kevian will distribute the improved potato seeds to farmers and later purchase the harvest for processing.
Kenya has been relying on imports of certified tubers to meet the growing demand for clean seeds for potato farmers with the view to boosting production of the country’s second most popular staple food.
The country’s potato seed demand stands at 30,000 tonnes annually but the country only produces 6,700 tonnes with most farmers recycling previous crop to use as seed, a move that has been blamed for the shortage that the country faces.
Kenya produces about two million tonnes of potatoes annually even though the country has potential of yielding up to eight million tonnes.