KNA Potato farmers in Elgeyo Marakwet have decried low prices for their produce blaming the middle men and brokers as the major source of their plight.
During this potato harvesting season, the farmers say that brokers have taken advantage of them and have literally camped on their farms with sacks and Lorries pressurising them to sell and determining how they should price their produce.
Speaking to KNA Hilary Kimutai, a farmer from Kapyego, highlighted that their major cash crop is Irish potatoes and since the harvesting season started, the price of a 50kg bag has tremendously dropped from Sh 2,000 to Sh 500 in a span of one month.
“We have suffered great losses as farmers because we are being ruled by brokers who stand between the farmer and the market and as farmers we have to give in to them because there is no set criterion for sale by the county government and these brokers provide accessible money,” said Kimutai.
Kimutai reiterated that Eldoret , which is their main market is miles away from their respective farms and most farmers have no transportation leaving them at the mercies of the brokers who dictate the price and most times only chose the best produce leaving the rest to rot in the farm.
He added that the western region who are also the major consumers of Irish potatoes are on lockdown and curfew thus accessing the region is hectic therefore there is surplus and no ready market making the prices drop.
“If the western region will be open then we may see a change in the potato prices but until then the situation remain as it is,” added the farmer
Farmers have no choice but to give in to the demands as there is school fees and other bills to take care, others prefer selling their crops so as not to over stay in the farms and avoid further losses.
He called on the county government to come in and alleviate their plight through the department of agriculture to stamp out brokers by marketing their produce and ensuring that the farmers benefit directly from the sale of their produce.
Anne Kibosia, the County Executive Committee (CEC) member in charge of agriculture, advised the farmers to resist the middle men and form cooperative societies through which the county will be in a better position to help in marketing for their produce.
“Farmers should also find other sources of income like selling of cattle and cultivating alternative cash crops that will fetch more income rather than selling their potatoes to brokers who never incurred any production costs at throw away prices,” said Kibosia.
She added that the county produces over 400,000 tonnes of potatoes annually in different parts of the county which are Kapcherop, Kaptarakwa, Kapyemit, Kimnai, Chebulbai, Kapyego, Lelan, Nyaru, among others.
The Department of Agriculture is also laying strategies to increase production of potatoes by providing certified seeds and training farmers on good agricultural practices to ensure that farmers gain maximum profits