Furor has erupted online after KFC Kenya’s announcement that the fast food chain has run out of chips. Instead, it is now offering customers the option of swapping out their usual portion of chips for another side, such as a bun, coleslaw, soda or ugali.
According to KFC chief executive: East Africa, Jacques Theunissen, the shortage in fries is as a result of a delay in shipment, as the chain imports its fries. This, paired with disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, has resulted in a shortage of fries.
Kenyans, however, have taken to social media to admonish the chain for not making use of local potatoes, but according to Theunissen, the global quality assurance process “takes too long”.
“As a foreign investor, what does KFC add to Kenya if it can’t perform a simple task of educating local farmers to produce quality potatoes and later buy from them?” asked Rogers Kimpebe Mpuru, secretary general of the NOPEU party in Kenya, via Twitter.
His sentiments have been echoed by countless other social media users asking the very same question.
Why is KFC not making use of local potatoes?
“The reason we cannot buy local at the moment is all suppliers need to go through the global QA approval process, and we cannot bypass that even if we run out to ensure that our food is safe for consumption by our customers,” Theunissen said.
After maize, potatoes are Kenya’s second most significant food crop and a critical component of national food security, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. Potatoes are gaining a lot of attention as a possible solution to the country’s food insecurity, poverty and climate change problems.
Because of its high protein, calcium, potassium and vitamin content, it is an excellent option for crop diversification and nutrition-sensitive agriculture projects. Kenya is home to approximately 62 different types of potato.
A total of 2.5 million people are employed in the industry, with a further 3.3 million employed indirectly by the full value chain. In 2016, yearly potato output was approximately USD 400 – 500 million, which compares well to annual maize production of USD 1.2 billion, despite maize being farmed across a significantly wider area.
“Potato production is an important source of rural income and food security, as 90% of total production is produced by small-scale farmers,” the bank said.
“However, the potato sector is not without challenges, notably the unavailability of quality and certified seeds, the unavailability of adequate inputs and equipment, low production yields, high disease incidence, fragmentation of actors in the value chain, a lack of value-add and new product development, as well as a lack of cold storage facilities.”
Kenya’s National Potato Council believes that local farmers should be granted the opportunity to supply international chains within the country, as a way to funnel money back into the local economy.
“They should offer a market to our farmers since we give them a market for their food,” said Washira Kaguongo, the CEO of the National Potato Council to FoodForAfrika.com. He added that KFC has reportedly not made contact with the council since its first shop eatery opened a decade ago.
“They would have gone downstream as soon as they arrived in Kenya to ensure that the types of potato they wanted were introduced to the country.”
The fast food chain’s competitors have been using KFC’s lack of chips as a way to market themselves.