The National Government will build a Ksh117 million cold-room store in Muchorwe in Molo to cushion potato farmers against post-harvest losses and eliminate exploitation by brokers.
The cold-room designed to hold four million kilograms of potatoes will be equipped with an information centre and storage areas which will prolong the shelf life of the harvest by four to six months and maintain consistence in quality.
Nakuru County Agriculture Chief Officer Kibet Maina said the project to be financed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries under the National Agricultural Rural Inclusive and Growth Project (NARIGP) will enable farmers to bulk the commodity and hence improve their bargaining power for better prices.
Addressing a potato value chain consultative meeting that brought together farmers, marketers and agriculture officials at the County’s headquarters, Maina revealed that potato farmers in the county lose up to 40 percent of their total produce in post-harvest losses. It is estimated that the county produces over 400,000 bags of potatoes.
“Our analysis indicates that potato prices increase three times in two to three months after harvesting. With the facility in place, farmers will be able to wait for the right time when prices stabilize before disposing off their produce,” he said.
Nakuru is among the largest producers of the crop in Kenya with the County accounting for 18.9 percent of national production.
Kibet affirmed that the devolved unit is committed to ensuring that farmers earn more through enforcing stringent measures on packaging and provision of certified seeds to the farmers.
“We are particularly keen on implementing the 50kg rule to ensure unscrupulous brokers don’t continue exploiting farmers by continued use of the excessive packaging techniques famously called Dusura,” he said.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock County Executive Committee Member Dr Immaculate Maina observed that shortage of certified potato seeds had stagnated production of the crop at seven tons per hectare against a potential of 40 tons.
She stated that the devolved unit is collaborating with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) and Egerton University in seeking to unlock the over Ksh15 billion potential of potato farming in the devolved unit.
“The County Government is collaborating with KEPHIS and certified seed producers to ensure that farmers receive high yield and disease resistant material,” she noted.
A representative from Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) Mr. Oscar Kasingo said the potato sub sector supports 3.8 million people directly and indirectly.
He said Potato is the second most important food crop, after maize in Kenya, cultivated by over 800,000 small holder growers with production currently estimated to be worth Ksh 50 billion.