Potato under drip irrigation. Photo source: https://www.agrico.co.ke/value-chain
The potato is the second most important staple food in Kenya after maize. This is because it produces more food on less land faster than any other major food crop, therefore offering job opportunities, strengthening trade and contributing to food security.
Several varieties are grown in Kenya in different growing seasons with short or long maturing durations. Although this is an advantage in the food sector, the case of unstable supply has been a major problem. Demand either rises or drops at different times of the season, forcing the prices to fluctuate and at times, causing the prices to rocket.
This problem can be solved to allow farmers to enjoy better prices for their produce as well as allow the consumers to buy potatoes at a better and affordable price (an equilibrium level). Some of the suggested possible ways in ensuring this include; Farmers being empowered to practice farming potatoes at least three times a year where applicable using early maturing varieties. This can stabilize the supply of potatoes throughout the year hence maintaining the supply. The other way is through farming during off-seasons using irrigated production. There have been suggestions that the government should gazette minimum guaranteed prices although it is not clear how this could be implemented without interfering with the market forces of supply and demand.
Storage of potatoes could also help stabilize prices by ensuring potatoes are stored during the period of glut and released during the period of shortage. This should be accompanied by the use of good packaging materials to reduce the rate of spoilage or deterioration of the quality.
The government and financial institutions should come up with credit solutions to support small scale farmers in accessing farm inputs and certified seeds to help increase the production levels. Small scale farmers should be allowed to purchase inputs through installments and to make full payment after harvesting. They should also be linked with direct markets to avoid oversupply or losses which normally occur due to a lack of proper market for potatoes.