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January 16, 2019

Potato prices double in Nairobi, authorities blame heavy rains

A man carries a heavy sack of potatoes to the market. /FILE
A man carries a heavy sack of potatoes to the market. /FILE

Prices of potatoes in Nairobi have doubled in the last two months.
  Kenyans are now forced to dig deeper into their pockets to buy a bucket of potatoes for Sh500 more.
A spot-check by the Star showed that a bucket of potatoes, which was previously selling at between Sh400 to Sh500, is now going for Sh700 to Sh1,000 in various city markets.
Agriculture and Irrigation chief administrative secretary Andrew Tuimur assured Kenyans that the prices will come down by next month once harvesting of potatoes starts in various potato growing areas across the country.
“There has been a lot of rain but in the next month or so there, the shortage of potatoes in the market will reduce due to the harvest and prices are likely to go down,” said Tuimur.

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Wachira Kaguongo, chief executive officer at the National Potato Council of Kenya, said the high cost can be attributed to the heavy rains experienced recently, which may have destroyed farms.
Speaking to the Star on phone yesterday, Wachira said the shortage of potatoes was also due to a misunderstanding after the regulatory body- Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service - prohibited importation of potato seeds from Tanzania in order to protect the country from pests and diseases.
“The rains not only affected potatoes but also other crops and as a result, farmers did not realise a good harvest,” he said.
“Normally, when there is a shortage of potatoes in the country, traders go to neighboring countries such as Tanzania to buy the product. So there was a misunderstanding after Kephis prohibited importation of seeds. There was the confusion as traders thought the move was meant for ware potatoes but we clarified and the products have now started coming to Kenya,” he said.
Wachira said it was about a month ago when traders summoned the potato council for the clarification. After that, there has been a slight decline in the prices of a 50kg bag to about Sh,4,500 after it had gone up to Sh6, 000.
 Data from the NPCK shows that in Nairobi, a kilogramme of ware potatoes is this week selling at Sh47, down from Sh52 last week. In Mombasa, the price is at Sh50, from Sh52 last week. In Kisumu, the price has remained constant at Sh60 while in Eldoret, the price has declined from Sh35 to Sh30.
According to NPCK, the country’s potato value chain involves approximately 2.7 million people among them 800,000 farmers. The sector contributes to more than Sh50 billion to the economy.

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