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A directive, recently issued by the Government of Kenya to County Commanders and Commissioners to ensure that the 50kg potato packaging as opposed to 110kg bag rule is enforced could directly scale up the smallholder farmer’s income.

The law is in line with the 2005 Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority Act revised in 2013. The 50kg rule is in line with the requirements of the International Labour Organization (ILO). The penalty for those convicted of flouting the law is a fine of Sh. 500, 000 or a jail term not exceeding one year.  

Farm Concern International (FCI) embraces this law since it bolsters Kenya’s vision 2030 economic pillar which aims to increase market access through packaging, branding and adding value by processing the bulk of agricultural produce. This will also enhance accessing regional and global markets that would hype income to smallholder farmers and traders engaged in agribusiness. 

The law also aligns with FCI’s vision to commercialize smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized and sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond. To realize the vision, FCI endeavours to build and implement innovative pro-poor market and business models that catalyse solutions for smallholder commercialization and competitiveness in value networks for household economic growth and community empowerment. 

While issuing the directive, the Agriculture Cabinet secretary Felix Koskei promised that the National government will work with county governments to ensure that the law is enforced. Mr. Koskei added that for a long time now, the potato sub sector has been grappling with the lack of potato packaging standards.  Potato is one of the major food crops in the country that are sold not by weight, but by bags. This has for a long time led to denial of incomes to farmers and a rip-off to consumers.

He affirmed that the law has been enhanced and with enforcement, all those involved in the supply of produce like maize and potatoes will only be allowed to buy or sell in 50 kilogramme bags. The requirement is based on section 42 of the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Authority (AFFA) Act 2013, section 37 of the Crops Act 2013. Institutions that form AFFA include the Tea Board of Kenya, Coffee Board of Kenya, Kenya Sugar Board, Horticultural Crops Development Authority, Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, Sisal Board of Kenya, Cotton Development Authority and Kenya Coconut Development Authority.

The enforcement of the law means that farmers who used to sell their harvests in extended bags can now breathe a sigh of relief as they are likely to get better value for their investments. The move has created various reactions with farmers welcoming the move while traders lamenting that it will oppress their business. Agriculture experts have also welcomed the move, saying that it will protect farmers from unscrupulous traders who have been benefiting from lack of a standard measure for farm produce going into the market.

“Farmers have been losing income through overweight bags,” said Mr Paul Mbuni of the Kenya Association of Agriculture Professionals. “The 50-kilo rule is consistent with the best international standards. This will ensure farmers get value for money,” he added.

Besides the loss of income by smallholder potato farmers, the extended bags:-

 

  • Pose a health risk to handlers and is discriminatory to women.
  • It is a loss to farmers since potatoes are sold based on number of bags and not by weight according to internationally recommended standards.
  • Farmers get a raw deal since quantification of produce is discriminatory.
  • Due to their enormous weight, tubers are damaged when dropped by handlers hence reducing quality and increasing post-harvest losses.
  • Processors and consumers get poor quality potatoes.
  • The poor quality potatoes in the market as a result of poor potato handling contribute to influx of imported potato products denying farmers additional revenue and increasing pressure on the much needed foreign exchange

 

Commercialization of the smallholder farmer remains the main goal of FCI to improve incomes and attain sustainable livelihoods for the smallholders. FCI also initiates formation of Commercial Villages in project implementation areas that facilitates collective action in buying inputs at a discount and selling from bulking points at a minimized cost of transportation. This facilitates the smallholders earn more returns for their inputs, and thus, stabilized livelihoods

In support of CS sentiments, FCI has worked tirelessly to ensure that the cost of production remains as low as possible. These has been through strategic partnerships with the formal and informal private sector, input suppliers, financial service providers, government and the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) to offer training and relevant information to smallholder farmers. 

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FCI VISION :Commercialized smallholder communities with increased incomes for improved, stabilized & sustainable livelihoods in Africa and beyond.