Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), the popular fast-food chain, has taken a significant step towards supporting local farmers and improving the availability of raw materials by initiating the processing of local potatoes into French fries.

This development comes as KFC seeks to reduce its dependence on imported potato supplies and enhance its commitment to Kenyan agriculture.

This move follows an incident last year when KFC faced public scrutiny for temporarily replacing traditional potato fries with alternative options due to disruptions in the potato supply chain from its overseas sources.

The disruption caused frustration among Kenyan consumers, who questioned the multinational’s continued reliance on potato imports more than a decade after establishing a presence in Kenya.

Wachira Kaguongo, Chairman of the National Potato Council, confirmed that KFC has begun purchasing potatoes from local farmers. However, the current local supply volumes are not yet sufficient to entirely eliminate the need for imports.

“Our farmers have started selling potatoes to KFC, but the volumes are still relatively low. With time and an adequate supply of certified seed, we will be able to scale up the production,” said Mr Kaguongo.

A sack of potato on the farm. Image: courtesy.
A sack of potato on the farm. All images: courtesy.

KFC and the potato council have identified the Markies potato variety as suitable for cultivation by Kenyan farmers to meet the multinational eatery’s requirements.

Currently, most Kenyan farmers primarily grow the Shangi variety, which does not meet the international standards necessary for French fry making.

KFC’s specific requirements include accepting only peeled and precisely cut potatoes that are frozen to the proper size for processing into fries. To address this, three processors in Kenya, including Simplifine and Sereni Fries, are now packaging potatoes for KFC.

The shortage of processors in Kenya capable of producing frozen chips and the unavailability of the desired potato variety previously compelled KFC to rely on importing these products from South Africa and Egypt.

The National Potato Council has been collaborating with the Kenya Bureau of Standards to establish the necessary quality standards and provide training to ensure that the locally sourced potatoes meet the expectations of KFC and its customers.

These standards play a vital role in traceability, helping determine the origin of the potatoes in case of any issues along the supply chain.

Currently, farmers in Nakuru and Nyandarua Counties are cultivating the Markies variety specifically for KFC, which commands a higher price compared to the Shangi variety.

For example, a kilogramme of Markies fetches Ksh45, while Shangi potatoes sell for Ksh35 per kilogramme.

KFC, which has been operating in Kenya for over a decade, does so through its franchisee, Kuku Foods East Africa.

This recent shift towards sourcing local potatoes for its fries marks a significant step in aligning with the principles of sustainability and supporting Kenyan agriculture.