Fast-food franchise Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) left its customers in Kenya with a rare conundrum after running out of french fries.
The fast-food chain attributed the situation to a shortage of potatoes following heavy consumption of fries from its outlets during the holiday season. It is currently offering alternative accompaniments with its chicken, including Kenyan staple Ugali.
Notably, KFC as well as several other international fast-food chains operating in Kenya import potatoes from countries including Netherlands, South Africa and Egypt as opposed to sourcing them locally.
“Fam it was truly a Furaha December. Mlikula sherehe with your KFC faves. Ya’ll loved our chips a little too much, and we’ve run out. Sorry! Our team is working hard to resolve the issue,” KFC in Kenya announced on January 3rd, 2022.
The chains maintain that they import potatoes to ensure global standards are met across their outlets. Their stance has been the subject of debate and policy adjustments. In July 2021, the National Treasury introduced a 30 percent duty on imports of potatoes.
Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani announced that the duty would apply to crop coming from outside the East African Community (EAC), maintaining that the move was meant to safeguard farmers’ interests.
With international supply chain woes capturing global attention in the past year, the shortage of fries at KFC Kenya has drawn further attention to the issue.
Players including private sector entities have been scaling up production of the preferred varieties of potato for chips in a bid to tap into the fast-food market.
In 2020, Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (Kalro) licensed juice maker Kevian Limited to produce quality tubers. Kevian is to commercialize five of Karlo’s high-yielding potato seed varieties on a 15-year contract to boost local production of the right variety required by multinational franchises and cut imports.
Kenyan firms such as Sereni Fries have also ventured into production of frozen cut fries with one eye on fast food chains. Some of Sereni’s customers include Chicken Inn Kenya and Naivas Supermarkets.
“It is an untapped market. Besides South Africa and Egypt, frozen chip factories in Africa are few and far between. There are a lot of new fast-food restaurants like KFC and Burger King setting up in Kenya. Many of them import from the Netherlands or Egypt. We think there is a gap in the market for locally produced frozen chips,” Sereni Fries Managing Director Humphrey Mburu told How I Made it in Africa in an October 2021 interview.