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FRESH IDEAS FOR THE POTATO INDUSTRY IN KENYA

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi presents the trophy to Managing Director FreshCrop, Chris Gasperi. Looking on is Brendan Ireland, Director of Finance (far left) and Ashley Gasperi, Director of Marketing (middle). Freshcrop received the award for emerging the National Farmers Awards 2023 Winner in the Large Commercial Farming category.

The Kenya potato value chain is undergoing a revolution . If plans by Freshcrop go as per founder Chris Gasperi vision, not only will the huge certified seed gap be bridged but also,farmers will no longer get stuck with produce during the harvesting season.

Here’s why. If we are able to take care of seed production, train farmers on production and buy back produce for distribution to consumers, we will have streamlined the potato sector as a key food security crop, says Chris, his passion unmistakable as he speaks about the journey he has circled over the past seven years.

When he decided to venture into potato production, Chris travelled extensively to see how others do it. The trips were an eye opener. He established Kenya has a big advantage – three season production cycle. A huge market on the continent, Middle East and Europe that is yet to be tapped. Exporters have orders they are unable to service due to shortage of potatoes. Potatoes, he says, cost of production per acre in Kenya is half of what  European producers spend.

If we all came together to organize the potato industry, opportunities are massive”, he says adding, “we only need to coordinate production and distribution”.

Freshcrop is the National Farmers Awards 2023 champion, Large Commercial Farms category, a partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock Development and Elgon Kenya, that runs an annual competition to fete outstanding agribusinesses in 11 categories.

When HortiNews team arrived at Mwisho wa Lami, Mau Narok, following the awards announcement, we found Chris Gasperi and Finance    Director    Brendan    Ireland    heading to Oloisonkoyo primary school and Olepolos Dispensary for tree planting as part of the farm’s community social responsibility to support the national tree planting goal. Chris explains that participating in planting trees is part of their sustainable business goals and commercial diversification.

Since FreshCrop forayed into growing potatoes in 2019, it has grown into one of Kenya’s largest certified seed producers and supplied thousands of farmers certified seeds, agricultural inputs, agronomy advisory and market linkages. This is one of the most unique value chain structures seen in the country. Freshcrop is distributing ware potatoes to fresh markets such as processors and Nairobi’s Marigiti and Mombasa’s Kongowea, in what are the baby steps towards a structured farm to the market channels.

As more growers join the revolution, Freshcrop is planning on building a factory and a cold storage facility. From here, in addition to distributing ware potatoes to key markets countrywide, the firm will be supplying ready to cook and processing potatoes to hotels and factories. The waste will go into making biofertilizers.

The growth means Freshcrop requires more land to produce more seed and establish farmer training centres in the potato producing counties and talks with respective county governments have started as well as partnerships to work with industry stakeholders to move the potato industry forward.
It is for this reason the firm started the annual field days where growers and value chain supporters congregate to see the industry under one roof. This year, a record 5000 farmers attended the event which, according to participants among them Doris Kinyua of Omnia, was so successful, display products sold out! ‘” As early as 9 am, farmers had streamed in ready to learn. I talked myself to exhaustion with farmers from all corners of the country not getting enough! added Ms Kinyua who said they can’t wait for next year’s day. She adds, “farmers are eager to learn. At the various demo plots they saw products and technologies at work, they purchased the products

CONGRATULATIONS freshcrop ltd for winning the National Farmers Award large commercial farms category.
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