The government is working closely with farmers from the three largest potato-producing counties to reduce the importation of potatoes following the KFC controversy.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya says his ministry has set aside Sh100 million to support the production of new varieties.
In the pilot phase, the Ministry is working with farmers from Nyandarua, Meru and Marakwet who are the largest potato-producing counties to cultivate the variety of potatoes needed by the market.
The Ministry is now recruiting farmers to get quality seeds from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) who have produced 20 new varieties of potatoes to make French Fries.
However, the CS said Kalro has not been able to support farmers with the quality seeds to produce the varieties to make the best French Fries.
Mr Munya said Narok and Nakuru are among counties with the huge potential to produce potatoes. He said development partners are also helping the potato-producing counties in seed multiplication, processing, value addition, post-harvest losses and storage.
He said potatoes are the second most important food value chain after maize however it has not been prioritised. Others are fish and livestock.
“This is piloting before we rollout it to other counties that can yield potatoes. But most of those varieties are actually for French Fries. This is the direction we are taking by collaborating with the private players who are making these potato seeds, we are linking them with farmers and they are supported by counties on how to cultivate the new variety and we finally deal with this KFC issue,” said Mr Munya.
The CS said his ministry is dealing with the improvement of high production of potatoes sufficient for the local market and supporting farmers.
Mr Munya cited lack of competitiveness in the agricultural sector contributed to the importation of foods such as the potatoes required by KFC.
“We need to improve in the competitiveness of the agricultural sector that has seen importation of potatoes. Even though the overall productivity of the agricultural sector has improved we have certain key challenges that we must deal with moving forward,” he said.
The CS said the competitiveness has seen products from other countries sold cheaper compared to the Kenyan forcing the market to rely on imports.
“What KFC imports is very little potatoes for French fries. French fries are five per cent of what we grow," he said while assuring counties of the national government commitment to spur growth in the agricultural sector.
Speaking during the Intergovernmental Forum for Agriculture at Pride Inn Hotel in Mombasa, the CS urged counties to collaborate with partners and the national government to develop agriculture adding that it is critical for the sector.
Council of Governors Agricultural and Cooperatives Committee chairperson Dr James Nyoro decried over the importation of agricultural products that are impoverishing local farmers.
Dr Nyoro cited the importation of sugar among other products.