Supply Chain Disruption: KFC Runs Out of Potatoes in Kenya

A KFC in Nairobi (left) and an advertisement for a chicken-and-fries combo (right) (thisisbossi / CC BY NC SA 2.0)

Published Jan 7, 2022 6:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

After McDonald’s, KFC Now Feels Pain of Supplies Disruption in Kenya

KFC has reported that it has run out of potatoes in Kenya, a country where smallholder farmers grow the crop in tonnes but cannot properly access the market.

The U.S fast food giant announced that after a busy festive season, Kenyan customers will be offered alternative food items in place of french fries after it ran out of potatoes due to supply chain disruptions.

KFC, which operates in Kenya through franchisee Kuku Foods East Africa, imports potatoes mainly from Egypt for french fries, which are commonly known as "chips" in the East African nation. Its chicken comes from South Africa.  

KFC's predicaments in Kenya follow shortly after McDonald’s was forced to temporarily limit portion sizes for its french fries in Japan, citing disruption at the Port of Vancouver, B.C. The fast-food chain was forced to charter flights to deliver potatoes and resume normal operations.

In Kenya, KFC said that delays in shipping due to the COVID-19 situation has resulted in a local potato shortage, and although potatoes are easily available in Kenya, the company said it cannot source locally while keeping to its strict quality standards.

“It has to do with delays in shipping lines due to the Covid situation. Ships have been delayed for more than a month now, but we are working hard to restore,” Jacques Theunissen, KFC CEO for East Africa was quoted by the Business Daily.

He added the reason the chain cannot source locally is because all its suppliers must go through KFC's global QA approval process, something that it cannot bypass even if it runs out in order to ensure that its food is safe for consumption.

KFC, which started operations in Kenya in 2011, has witnessed a steady growth. The total number of outlets operated in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda stands at 35.

The chain’s insistence that it cannot source for potatoes locally has prompted a backlash from Kenyans with the hashtag #BoycottKFC trending on Twitter Tuesday.

“It’s unfair that KFC imports chicken from South Africa and potatoes from Egypt yet we have farmers in Nyandarua stuck with potatoes. The government also launched the potato seed multiplication project that’s making modern hybrids. Investors must now trust our raw materials,” said one Twitter user.

Farmers in the wet highlands of Nyandarua - some 70 miles from Nairobi - are major producers of potatoes, the second most important staple crop in Kenya after maize. Government statistics show that Kenya’s total annual output of potato is about 1.5 million to 2 million metric tonnes annually with the market value estimated at $500 million. Over 90 percent of the potatoes are grown by small farmers. 

Top image: A KFC in Nairobi, 2019 (thisisbossi / CC BY NC SA 2.0)