Potato farmers in Nyandarua (Kenya) have approved regulations for Irish potatoes production, handling and marketing.
They expressed reservations, however, about some sections of the regulations contained in the Crops Act, 2013. The rules require compliance with best practices in production, transportation and storage. They focus on marketing and quality assurance, and procedures and conditions for registration of growers, associations and dealers.
More than 350 farmers and other sector players — including aggregators, government officials, transporters, marketing agents and processors — took part in a public participation forum at ACK Hall, Ol Kalou.
They agreed potatoes should not be packaged in bags larger than 50kg. This is to protect farmers from exploitation by brokers or other dealers.
They however contested the section requiring dealers to register with county or national governments. They said this will raise the cost of production and hurt profitability.
The farmers also fear the proposed registration of growers’ associations and marketing agents, among others, could make room for unscrupulous traders to infiltrate the sector, as happened in tea and coffee sectors.
Njuguna Mwangi from Kipipiri:
“We want some of these terms clearly defined and the role of dealers made clear. Otherwise, their job may be to confine the farmers to potato production, while our sweat benefits other people.”
Regulation 23 says marketing agents will buy potatoes through public auction at designated markets. Farmer Hassan Waweru from Ol Kalou said this will lock out farmers.
They expressed fears about ‘powerful crop inspectors’ appointed by the Agriculture and Food Authority to examine produce.
The growers also questioned penalties for those who stop inspections. Regulations say those found guilty could be jailed for as long as three years and fined Sh2 million — or both.
They want a clear definition of ‘small-scale’ and ‘large-scale’ farmers. Most Nyandarua farmers are smallholders.
Patrick Kirimi from the Agriculture and Food Authority urged the farmers not to be afraid, saying regulations are “in your best interests”.
He told them to allow inspection so order can be restored through fair play. Otherwise the sector will fail and farmers will be the biggest losers, Kirimi said.
He said those with at least 10 acres will be considered large-scale farmers, as they will supply more than 2,000 bags to the market. He said registration will be free, hence, it will not increase costs. The regulations will be gazetted. They will improve livelihoods across the Irish potato value chain, Kirimi said.
Agriculture executive James Karitu said farmers will be treated fairly:
“We want regulations enforced as our people have been exploited for so long.”
Source : potatopro.com