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Chips crisis looms as Kenya runs short on Irish potatoes

The country is facing a shortage of 1.7 million tonnes of Irish potatoes due to farmers’ over-reliance on uncertified seeds that yield less.

The most affected are the hospitality industry and households, which rely on the crop to make potato chips and crisps, among other snacks.

This is the reason consumers are paying more for the produce, especially in the coastal region.

However, the national government says that there are plans to increase the production of Irish potatoes in a bid to make the country self-sufficient.


Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kuinjuri said farmers must use certified seeds to increase production.

“In the next one year, we are going to meet the deficit by ensuring that farmers use certified seeds. To date, the total production of basic seed is at 6,700 metric tonnes, short of the 30,000 metric tonnes required,” said the CS.

He spoke yesterday to a session of the parliamentary Committee on Delegated Legislation in Mombasa.

Once done, he added, farmers could harvest 10 tonnes of potatoes, up from 4.4 tonnes and equivalent to 88 bags from one hectare.

Mr Kiunjuri said farmers would be able to grow the same seed for another three generations, saving them from buying the planting material year in year out.

However, the CS said that only potatoes lack a standard of measure. Parliament was, however, set to legislate on the measure of potatoes in kilogrammes. Currently, they are sold in extended sacks.

“The point of focus is on potato regulation. There are a number of things that are not okay and this has led to the exploitation of farmers by brokers,” he said.


On food and nutrition, Mr Kiunjuri said the ministry would come up with a road map to ensure self-sufficiency.

Potatoes are the second most consumed farm produce.

The potato is the second most important crop in Kenya after maize in terms of consumption. It is grown by nearly 500,000 small-scale farmers on 120,000 hectares and with an average yield of 7.7 tonnes per hectare.

It is grown by more than 800,000 farmers, generating more than Sh50 billion in revenue for the country.