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Kenyan fears over potato imports

The Kenyan Government’s decision to allow the import of potato tubers due to growing demands for French fries has been met with dismay by the country’s agricultural industry

Local farmers have pointed to fears that the imports could introduce new diseases into the region and have been left asking why the government chose not to turn to them to help it meet the increase in demand.

Kenya’s second most important crop is the potato and any widespread disease could have substantial effects on the economy.

“The problem is not the seed potatoes, it is the import procedure,” said local potato farmer and seed producer David Kiogora Maingi.

“There hasn’t been any consultation with stakeholders… they might be bringing in problems that we might not be able to solve later.”

Dr Elmar Schulte-Geldermann, an agronomist with the International Potato Centre, told RNW Africa, “I fear the spread of disease from Europe to Africa.

“Under tropical conditions, some diseases even get worse.”

Kentucky Fried Chicken, which started franchise operations in Nairobi in 2011, decided to purchase potatoes from Egypt, because it claimed the appropriate varieties were unavailable in Kenya.