For many years, potato farmers have had limited freedom in choosing markets, buyers and determining prices for their produce, but the new vigorous reinforcement of the Crops Packaging Act 2013 has brought positive changes.
However, potato middlemen in the county are already crying foul arguing that the important role they have always played in ensuring a seamless flow of goods in the market by matching supply and demand has largely been disregarded or downplayed all together.
An influential middleman who has been in the trade for many years, Dedan Gituki Mungai said the Crops Act No. 16 of 2013, which indicates packaging of potatoes should be done in standardized 50kg bags has negatively impacted on their business.
Mungai said as stakeholders in the business they were not consulted and it would have been prudent if all the potato actors along the supply chain had been called for a round table consultation to reach some consensus.
Speaking on Saturday during a press conference at Lanet, the business broker stated that the wrong perception of middlemen as exploiters needs to be changed because without them, whatever food is consumed in households, especially in urban areas cannot get to the tables easily without their hard work.
He said they provide feedback to the producers about the market for free and this influences the amount of acreage farmers put under potato cultivation for a particular season.
“We middlemen of this country know the farmers even better than the agricultural officers who hardly move across the counties and we share vital information with the farmers at no cost. Sometimes we inform them to either increase or decrease the acreage depending on what we have seen in various regions and markets,” he said.
Mungai added that the disapproval many people have towards middlemen was misplaced because they don’t appreciate the crucial role they play across the supply chain. Also, forgetting the fact that they pay potato farmers immediately, compared to maize farmers who depend on the government, which more often than not delays their payment.
He added that just like any other salesman they purchase goods from the producers and sell them to retailers at an increased price, and that’s the natural rule and accepted practice worldwide.
The trader urged the government and wananchi to appreciate their distribution role, which over the years has assisted farmers to get their goods to the market despite the poor state of road networks in most parts of the country.
At times we get stuck for days and the perishable goods go to waste, forcing us to incur huge losses that are never compensated, Mungai added.