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Farmers will no longer suffer after government releases new regulations

The  government  on Thursday  released the new potato regulations 2019 after being gazetted in early  April and passed  by the National Assembly  in  the  first  week  of  May 2019.

The  government has for the last five years been trying to come up with regulations as the lack of law has been an
impediment to farmers’ economic growth.

Speaking  on Friday during the launch of the regulations at the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), the  Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS), Mwangi  Kiunjuri  said potato farmers as well as consumers had been exploited for a  very long time.

“We have brought order in the industry and for the first time a farmer can be able to predict after harvest how much one  can earn. They are assured that the brokers will not come in to take their potato without knowing how much they have  taken,” he said.

The  CS decried the tendency of middle men who have been purchasing potatoes with bags that carry almost 150 kgs terming it  a thin of the past as through regulations, farmers will now be selling their potatoes on a 50 kgs bag which must be sealed.

“This is a major milestone towards revitalising and ensuring our potato farmers are completely liberated and a broker can  longer come in and exploit them,” he said

Kiunjuri  added that it was not only packaging that the government was addressing but has also a rounded and well grounded regulations that are coming up such as how grading will be done, access to market, transportation and also which type  of  bag that the farmers are going to use.

He  noted that unscrupulous traders who have been also taking advantage of consumers when purchasing potatoes and  packaging them in containers that are craftily half empty will no longer have a field day as the regulations are coming  in to protect the farmer versus consumer transactions since the potatoes will now be sold in Kilogrames and not  containers.

According  to  the regulations, the implementation will address challenges raised in the past that include curbing

malpractices  associated with the use of extended bags, the maximum weight per unit package shall be 50Kgs with quality assurance in marketing and also Licensing of actors in the potato value chain.

Kiunjuri  confirmed that the Warehousing Receipt System Bill, 2018 that provides the required legal framework and addresses marketing challenges associated with the cereals and grains subsectors is in parliament at the senate level.

“With the approval, it  will now become an act  of  Parliament  whereby we will respond to it. But most important is not  whether we shall have the law, but whether we can facilitate that law,” he said.

He  called upon governors, County Members of Assembly (MCAs) and also private sector to support the potato growing regions to embrace and support the implementation of these Regulations especially on the issue of storage facilities for the produce and also through the selling by the 50kgs bags.

“It  is not the business of government to do business but to facilitate the farmers because it is a heavy investment. We  have to demonstrate to the private sector that the venture in storage can make money and farmers to understand that if they can be able to hold their commodities in the storage facilities they can make more profits out of the same  commodity,” Kiunjuri said

The CS noted that the government was expanding production capacity of both KALRO and ADC laboratories, increasing the land under irrigation for potato production, and sensitizing farmers to scale-up the use of certified potato seeds.

The  move, Kiunjuri said, will be accompanied by other value chain support services and infrastructural development such as cold rooms and aggregation centres.

Kiunjuri confirmed that the government will begin process of distribution of seeds to farmers starting Monday May 27.

Last  week  the CS  had said the government will start distributing more than 6 million high quality seedlings to farmers  across  the country.

“From  Wednesday  each  farmer will receive five seedlings based on the region and these seeds we will be distributing are for this rainy season and also the short rains of October to November,” he said.

He noted that if farmers could successfully plant and have a success rate of 80 percent then, in the next three years the  country would experience change of livelihoods in families.

The various seedlings from coconut, cashew nut, macadamia, mango, banana tissue culture, avocado or other seedlings will  be distributed based on the region.

This rainy season more than 2.6 million seedlings will be distributed and during the short rains in October, November and  December another four million seedlings will be distributed.

The  Interim Director General of Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA), Antony Mureithi said as the regulator body, the  regulations will bring accelerated growth and development of agriculture, enhance productivity and also incomes of farmers  and actors.

The  Authority, he added, was in the process of also finalizing a set of regulations covering all the scheduled crops grown  in  the  country.

“These  processes that began in 2014 have been laborious, intense, time consuming but very participatory with various  actor s involved. The Crops (Irish Potato) Regulations 2019 is a product of this effort,” Mureithi noted.

Potato is the second most important staple crop after maize in the country.

It is increasingly becoming more so, given the level of urbanization and changing consumption patterns.

It also has immense opportunities for value addition and commercialization.

By  Wangari  Ndirangu

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