Potato dealers risk a three-year jail term or a Sh5 million fine or both if they violate the Crops (Irish Potatoes) Regulations 2019.
Specifically, if caught transporting potato bags that contain 50 kilogramme each, the traders will be jailed for three months if convicted or fined Sh500, 000.
These are some of the regulations all potato dealers have to comply with for them to be allowed to participate in the potato business.
Agriculture and Food Authority (AFA) is presently and concurrently undertaking sensitization, while cracking down on traders violating the new rules.
Last week the Agency in conjunction with the Meru County security personnel under the direction of the County Commissioner, Karuku Ngumo, arrested five traders and vehicles carrying potatoes packed in extended bags.
Ngumo assured that his officers will ensure the regulations are enforced to the letter and more so to encourage ethical business practices.
“As a Government our mission is to ensure traders carry out business ethically and discourage immoral actions, leading to denying farmers their hard-earned sweat,” said Ngumo
Government has insisted that the maximum weight for each single unit of package of Irish potatoes shall be 50kg, a departure from the current and past scenarios where traders use extended bags of up to 110 kilogrammes.
The use of the lengthy bags, the Government argues, has been used by traders to deny farmers their rightful earnings from their sweat.
Regina Kinanu, a farmer in Meru County, decried harassment by traders as farmers are forced to pack their produce in extended bags.
“Women are the most affected as the traders even harass them when they come to buy the produce. The regulations will eventually protect us against malpractices by traders and enable us to benefit from ethical business practices,” said Kinanu.
She added, “We are encouraging our farmers to form associations so that they can have strong bargaining power and enjoy economies of scale.”
Her sentiments were lauded by Nancy Kananu, who is an Irish potato trader and who called upon other traders in the sector to buy weighing machines so that they can pack their produce in 50Kg sacks.
“Let us embrace the use of weighing machines so that we sell our produce in kilograms but not extended bags,” Kananu added.
Potato Council of Kenya (PCK) Director, Chris Marete, stated that potato business for long, has been grappling with poor regulatory framework and equally marketing challenges.
“We are supporting the Government to enforce the new regulations so that the breaches can be tamed,” said Marete.
Marete who is also the Meru County Potato Cooperative Union Chairman, said farmers are being encouraged to form associations and equally register with their respective counties.
At the same time, he noted that forming associations, will shield them against being exploited by unscrupulous traders.
“Since we formed the Union it has contributed to the enactment of the regulations among other achievements,” he said.
AFA Acting Director General, Kello Harsama, explained that a crackdown will be carried out in all the potato growing counties.
“Government ideas are to ensure the potato business is efficiently done with all the value chains benefiting equally. We are working with all the value chains, including farmers and traders to ensure the regulations are implemented to the latter and contradiction of the same will attract stiff penalties, including seizing, detaining and disposing or destroying consignments imported into the country,” said Harsama.
Some of the major producing potato counties include Nyandarua, Meru, Nakuru, Narok, Bomet, TransNzoia and Uasin Gishu.
By Wangari Ndirangu