Cash crunch forces growers to harvest immature potatoes
POVERTY: Potato farmers in the country are rushing to sell immature harvests, a situation they blame on low financial base and fear of low prices due to expected produce glut next month.
In key growing counties of Nyandarua and Meru, farmers are busy harvesting the immature produce and selling to brokers and traders though at low prices and in extended bags contrary to new rules by the national government discouraging the same.
Meanwhile, brokers and unscrupulous traders are still forcing farmers to sell their produce in extended bags even as the government intensifies implementation of the Crop (Irish potato) Regulations 2019.
The regulations state that farmers, traders and other value chain players must package potatoes in 50kg bags.
Farmers claim they have been prompted to trade immature potatoes to generate cash to meet their financial obligations such as paying school fees.
“Right now there are favourable prices in the market. But in the next one month, there will be oversupply of the produce and thus prices will decrease,” Paul Chege, a potato farmer in Tumaini farm of Nyandarua County told the Business Hub.
Cheating the farmers
Nyandarua County Agriculture Minister James Karitu said the current crop is yet to mature but middlemen are cheating farmers to harvest and sell.
“It is true farmers may be financially depressed but the brokers are to blame as they are buying the produce cheaply to enable them remain afloat in the business,” he said.
Karitu said in an interview that traders are forcing farmers to package the harvest in extended bags which contradicts the new regulations.
He said harvesting of the crop while not yet ripe is contributing to high post-harvest losses both at the farm and market level.