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September 23, 2018

State and county partner to boost Meru potato farming

Kenya Plant Health Inspector Service MD Ester Kimani shows CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi  a potato farm at Marimba Cebntrakl Imenti on Friday Meru farmers will plant new potato varieties tested by Kephis
Kenya Plant Health Inspector Service MD Ester Kimani shows CS Mwangi Kiunjuri and Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi a potato farm at Marimba Cebntrakl Imenti on Friday Meru farmers will plant new potato varieties tested by Kephis

Meru potato farmers are set to benefit by increase of varieties, setting up of a value addition centre and protection from exploitation by brokers.

This is after the government showed willingness to provide funds and develop policies that protect potato farming.

Buuri, Central Imenti and South Imenti constituencies are widely known for potato farming, and they supply to many parts of the country.

Farmers are organised in seven societies. However, they have been suffering from lack of a suitable and ready market, as they harvest their crops almost the same time over supplying the market and hence bringing down the prices.

Brokers who buy the commodity put high sack stacking locally known as Mituru, making the farmers make huge losses. Kenya Plant Health Inspector Service managing director Esther Kimani said they have new varieties for the farmers, which they have already tested.

Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi said that county has a long way to go in emulating Canada, one of the leading potato producers in the world, which he recently visited.

“We want potato farmers to do crop rotation. They can’t be planting potatoes in one area all through. In Canada, neighbouring farmers exchange farms and plant different crops,” he said.

He said Kenya potatoes are yet to get into international markets for processing, hence missing from biggest market of french fries.

“Even here in the country, KFC and MacDonalds import their potatoes because there are no varieties for the french fries we want to get it this time round,” Kiraitu said.

Kiraitu noted the biggest problem in the industry is storage and encouraged farmers to acquire modern storage facilities where potato can be stored for one year.

“We want every cooperative society to have one big storage facility where each farmer can store his product,” he said.

The governor also said his government will help farmers in value addition by setting up a processing plant.

He said setting up of societies will eventually weed out brokers as all the people who buy potatoes in Meru will be registered.

Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri said the government will boost potato farming but noted many farmers are not using certified seeds.

“Only 18 per cent of potato farmers in the country are using certified seeds. If we can raise the number to 30 per cent, the country will have enough potatoes in the market,” he said.

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