The Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) has told off greedy traders that the state will not budge in its enforcement of law limiting potato packaging to 50Kgs.
AFA Ag. Director General Kello Harsama has warned individuals who are reported to have held strikes in Wakulima and Muthurwa Markets that the Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations of 2019 is here to stay and is meant to protect interest of farmers who, for ages, have been exploited by cartels in potato trade.
Harsama castigated the traders whom he also blamed for the misrepresentation and misinformation of facts via social media platforms hence misleading the public on the regulations.
“We condemn these actions and ask the public to ignore false information regarding the Irish Potato regulations and I urge the public to read and educate themselves of the Regulations available on the internet,” said Harsama.
In a statement issued on Thursday, Harsama noted that despite the enforcement eliciting mixed reactions in the country, farmers and genuine traders have continued to register with their respective counties a clear indication that the government is protecting them.
The AFA Director General last week made various visits in potato growing counties including major markets in Nairobi to oversee the enforcement of potato regulations.
“The cartels who have thrived in the previous dispensation of confusion, malpractices and corruption continue to fight the Government by threatening farmers and traders who seek to comply with the law,” he observed.
Before these provisions, farmers lamented that unscrupulous brokers would package their produce in extended bags of up to 250Kgs and force farmers to sell them at the price of 50kgs bag.
These acts, according to AFA, distorted the market, leading to lop-sided profit by cartels and loses to farmers hence the dwindling potato production in the country.
Unwarranted interference of the enforcement of the regulations, Harsama said, shall lead to arrest and conviction of those involved, urging all sector players to comply with the law.
“The regulations are meant to serve and protect them. We also urge all consumers not to panic as there is no shortage of potatoes in the market as naysayers have been saying,” he added.
Harsama, however, noted that markets in Kangemi, Kawangware and Korogocho have made positive strides in complying with the regulations, evident in their acceptance of the 50kg bag as the maximum unit of measure for Irish Potatoes.
The same, he added, has been witnessed in the counties of Nakuru, Meru, Nyandarua and other potato growing counties where the County governments have enforced the regulations.
“We commend these traders for their continued support in enforcing the law and encourage the rest of the country to follow suit,” Harsama said.
The DG encouraged farmers to access all the markets available to them with their produce saying that the government has provided adequate security to enable them trade without fear.
Some of the ways in which the regulations will assist the industry is by capping the maximum weight of packaging potatoes to 50kgs and providing for registration of all players in the market, including traders, transporters, importers and exporters.
Irish potatoes are a major food security crop coming second to maize as the main staple food in the country. The sector employs approximately 800,000 people across the value chain.
The Sector has for a long time operating without any set of rules and guidelines to promote efficiency, consumer protection and profitability.