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How rogue middlemen slice off potato growers

By Nanjinia Wamuswa

Stephen Wanyoike harvests Shangi potatoes from his 10 acre farm located Magumo area of Njambini in Nyandarua County. [PHOTO: NANJINIA WAMUSWA/STANDARD]

As Stephen Wanyoike prepares to harvest his Shangi potatoes in a week’s time, his main challenge remains brokers who have invaded the potato market.

By the time he’s sold all potatoes from his 10-acre farm in Magumo, Nyandarua County, Wanyoike would have lost a lot of money to middlemen.

To Wanyoike and other farmers, a disoriented marketing system and lack of policies has seen brokers continually exploit farmers.

Package issues

“A 50kg sack is extended to weigh over 70kg while the 110kg bag to weigh over 140kg,” Wanyoike reveals.

He explains, were it not exploitation by middlemen, farmers would be raking in a lot of money because potatoes have a lot of profits.

He has been at it for a while to know it’s potential.

Wanyoike ventured into potato farming around 1989 after high school.

“I was inspired into farming because that’s where my parents got money to educate us. Though they farmed the traditional way, l knew if l do it the modern way, I would get good money from it.”

When he was starting off, armed with Sh13,000, Wanyoike bought potato seeds from Kenya Farmers Training Centre, Njambini, and used the rest of the cash for fertilisers.

After planting, he faced the challenge of fake fertilisers that led to crop failure.

He says it took the intervention of a crops officer from the then KARI who  discovered he had bought fake fertilisers and advised on best quality.

First harvest

After three months, the potatoes were ready for harvesting.

After harvesting and selling, he made Sh10,000 which was a loss compared to Sh13,000 he’d invested in the farm. But he never gave up.

“...despite the loss, I continued with potato farming,” he recalls.

In the next one month, Wanyoike prepared his farm again for planting. He bought seeds using the money he’d made in the first harvest.

He recalls how a friend linked him to an agricultural extension officer who  constantly advised him, especially on the use of pesticides.

After three months, Wanyoike harvested 19 bags, which he sold at Sh1,500, making total of Sh28,500. Since then, Wanyoike says has never looked back.

To be on the safe side, he now buys quality seeds from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.

Looking back at his journey as a potato farmer, he says he has overcome all hurdles save for the packaging issue.

He says right now a 50kg bag is going for Sh3,000 and brokers are still enjoying farmers sweat.

“For a normal 50kg bag, this is okay. But for an extended bag that weighs over 70kg going for the same amount is total loss for farmers,” he says.

The Smart harvest visited a local market, Soko mjinga in Kinare along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, where Wanyoike and others sell their potatoes and confirmed the farmers’ fears.

The farmers now want action from State agents.

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