The Agriculture Food Authority (AFA) has proposed new potato packaging rules in a bid to end exploitation of farmers by brokers and middlemen.

Under the proposed Irish Potatoes Handling and Marketing Regulations, Irish potato producers and dealers will be required to pack Irish potatoes into a maximum weight of 50kg.

The regulations, which are set to come into effect on July 1, propose a fine of up to Sh. 20,000 for those found to have flouted the packaging regulations. “A person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (5) (6) (7) and (9) commits an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding Sh. 20,000, or both,” the regulations state.

In various parts of Nakuru and Nyandarua counties, farmers have been forced to package their potatoes in 110kg bags despite a crackdown by county governments on illegal packaging. The Irish Potatoes Handling and Marketing Regulations requires growers, dealers, processors, importers, exporters and aggregation centres to register with county governments.

All processors, importers and exporters shall register with AFA, which shall issues certificate of registration. Under the laws, any person who contravenes the regulations commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh. 50,000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months, or both.

Potatoes are grown by more than 800,000 farmers, majority who are smallholders and produce 83 per cent of the national harvest. According to the 2018 Economic Survey, potato production has dropped from 2.1 million tonnes in 2013 to 1.5 million tonnes last year.

However, during the same period, the price per 1kg increased from Sh. 52 in 2013 to Sh. 81 last year. The two pieces of legislation are expected to tame the packaging of potatoes, which have made farmers in various parts of the country to raise complaints on exploitation by brokers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and AFA have kick-started a public participation on the proposed regulations. The public has been invited to give views on the regulations before a national stakeholders forum in Nairobi on July 4.

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