Price of potatoes from Nakuru County, the major producing zone for the staple crop in Kenya has risen by 50 percent prompted by impacts of heavy rainfall experienced in many parts of the country.
Many of the roads leading to the remote crop plantations have been left with gullies and water filled dents thus cutting off any access with vehicles. This has forced farmers to use donkeys to ferry the produce to the main roads.
This according to the buyers has pushed up the cost of transportation with consumers meeting the extra charges in increased prices.
"There is no other place in this town you can buy a two kilogramme container commonly used for measuring potatoes in Kenyan markets for 0.5 U.S dollars," a seller who only identified herself as Edna told a customer on Tuesday at the wholesale Wakulima Market in Nakuru town centre, 160 km northwest of the capital Nairobi. She was bargaining for a discount.
A two kilogramme tin is currently selling at one dollar, double the price it traded about two months ago.
"We are now buying one bag (usually 110 kg) from brokers at 60 dollars and there is no negotiation about it. Sometime in March, we could get it for 36 dollars to 40," said Edna.
"Brokers say farmers are charging them high since they are using donkeys to transport the bags from the distant farms to where they are. The roads are bad. They cannot reach their farms," she explained.
Jane Wambui, a grocer at White House, east of the outskirts of the town said they are buying an eight-kilogramme of the produce at a retail price of five dollars against 2.5 dollars to three dollars sometime in March.
"We sell in portions of 0.2 dollars to make a profit when the buying price is too unfavouarable," said Wambui, "We attract losses when we sell in tins."
Nakuru County situated in the Rift Valley region produces at least 60 percent of the total potatoes consumed in the country.
Brokers distributing to major cities and towns including Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu get their supply from small and large scale farmers in the county.
It is the second most popular staple in the East African nation after maize, feeding more than 33 million people.
Edward Mwamba, secretary general at the Kenya National Potato Farmers Association says the rains have spurred the cost of the produce currently in low supply.
"There is a scarcity at the moment as many farmers are in the last leg of harvesting," Mwamba told Xinhua.
"Furthermore, the village roads are impassable due to heavy rains. The vehicles cannot make way to the farms. With all the factors considered, the price has to obviously go up," he said, adding that shangi is the common variety in the market since it is popular in the hospitality industry for making French fries.
Data from Ministry of Agriculture showed that potatoes are currently grown in 108,000 hectares by about 500,000 small scale farmers.
The crop is largely grown in three regions namely Rift Valley-which is popularly known as the country's food basket- as well as Central and Eastern.