KFC SEEKS Government Intervention Amidst Gnawing Potato Shortage

Pic1 - From left Industrialization PS Amb. Karimi Kaberia, Trade PS Amb. Johnson Weru and KFC CEO Jacques Theunissen
Pic2 - Trade PS Amb Weru explains Government policy
Pic3 - Industrialization PS Amb Kaberia joins in the discussion
Pic4 - CEO Theunissen clarifying the potato shortage

The local Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise management this week met top Government officials to urgently address, among other issues, the challenges it is facing in sourcing locally processed frozen chips that conform to the company’s global quality standards and food safety specifications.The meeting chaired by the State Department for Trade and Enterprise Development PS Amb. Johnson Weru and attended by his Industrialization counterpart Amb. Karimi Kaberia was told that Kenya does not manufacture processed frozen chips, forcing KFC to source the same from other global markets.

CEO of the local KFC franchise Jacques Theunissen told the meeting that they were willing to source the chips locally to avoid disruption in supply as was witnessed early this year after their shipment from its overseas suppliers delayed. The delay was blamed on global shipping disruptions caused by strict adherence to the coronavirus pandemic protocols.

Speaking during the meeting in his boardroom, Trade PS Amb. Weru said Government was concerned by recent reports that KFC had challenges on the uptake of local potatoes on the basis of non-conformity with the company’s global quality standards and food safety specifications.
He noted with dismay that KFC had not engaged Government with the view of developing solutions to their problems, hence the reason for summoning the CEO to the meeting attended by various stakeholders. It was called to develop synergies with local suppliers and support KFC to affirmatively promote value chains development and sectoral integration.

The PS reiterated the Government’s commitment to support foreign investors by creating a conducive business environment while at the same time looking out for Kenyan interests, in this case, job creation, value addition and market for local produce.
While acknowledging they had not engaged Government on their challenges, the CEO took the opportunity to clarify that their ongoing potato shortage had nothing to do with the alleged poor quality of locally grown potatoes and everything to do with lack of suppliers of the semi-cooked frozen chips. 

He said KFC already sources over 80% of their other supplies from local suppliers who easily conform to global standards, and expressed optimism that Government will urgently assist them access the chips locally to support the local economy and cut down on their shipping and time costs.Theunissen said they were passionate about the ‘Buy Kenya Build Kenya’ policy and are willing to support local farmers, especially the small-scale farmer as opposed to big commercial firms, in the production and processing of potatoes into the frozen product that conforms and is consistent with their global standards. 

During discussions, it was agreed that KFC furnishes Government with the product specifications of the equipment needed to support the cutting and freezing of chips before they are taken for processing at KFC restaurants. KFC, unlike local restaurants, only accepts potatoes that have been peeled, cut to the required size and frozen ready for processing as chips. 

Amb. Weru said the three available cold-storage units in Meru, Kisii and Nyandarua can be upgraded and equipped with the technology to produce and supply local and regional consumers of the processed chips. He promised to engage National Treasury for funds and fast-track procurement of the equipment immediately the specifications are received. The meeting also resolved to form a Working Team that will develop a concrete roadmap within two weeks to guide on how Kenya can quickly set up the plant to manufacture and supply KFC and the regional market with the chips.

Present in the meeting were top officials from the Retail Traders Association of Kenya, Kenya Revenue Authority, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service, Kenya Bureau of Standards, Kenya Trade Remedies Agency and technical officers from the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade and Enterprise Development.

KFC is an American fast-food chain franchise that operates in Kenya as Kuku Foods East Africa since 2011. It currently has 29 local outlets, 23 of them in Nairobi, and six others in Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, and Nanyuki with 12 in Uganda and one in Rwanda.

Since the social media outcry early January following reports that KFC had run out of potatoes for chips, KFC has held discussions with the Agriculture Sector Network (ASNET), National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), Nyandarua County Government among other stakeholders. It has promised to fully engage them so as to start purchasing locally pre-cooked frozen potatoes by the end of 2022.

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