Kenya’s potato stakeholders have vowed to revamp potato farming to help to increase supply as demand for the produce, mostly consumed as fries, rises in both urban and rural areas.
Speaking at a national conference in Nairobi on Friday, the stakeholders vowed to increase annual potato output by addressing the quality of seeds and relaying the right information to farmers in the value chain.
In his opening remarks, Eliud Kireger, Director General of Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) said that in collaboration with private seed companies, the country is now capable of producing 300 tonnes of basic seed potato annually.
“Despite the successes recorded, much still needs to be done particularly, in the area of technology transfer (scaling-up and scaling-out) and development of meaningful partnerships in research at national, regional and global levels,” Kireger told participants.
He said Kenya is faced with low national potato yields, old and new potato disease challenges and shortage of varieties with high yield potential including consumer preferred attributes.
“I encourage the participants at this conference to take advantage of this forum to form networks that will provide strategic partnerships through which solutions in the potato value chain can be addressed,” he added.
Majority of Kenyan farmers still plant potato varieties with an optimum yield of only seven to 10 tonnes per hectare. The varieties are also susceptible to diseases and virus attacks and are not economical in the long run.
However, the challenge of making better breeds available to farmers is hampered by the low numbers of reproduction laboratories in Kenya.
According to the National Potato Council, the East African nationloses 190 million U.S. dollars annually due to poor production and processing of potatoes.
Kireger said that potatoes worth billions of dollars are lost through poor harvesting methods and poor marketing process.
“We have embarked on promoting low cost on-farm storage structures in potato growing areas to reduce postharvest losses and also facilitating them to enter contract farming arrangements where they supply directly to processors,” Kireger said.
According to the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK), Kenya’s potato value chain involves about 2.7 million people among them 800,000 smallholder farmers. The sub sector contributes more than 500 million dollars to Kenya’s economy.
Kireger said that potato now forms an important ingredient in the diet of many rural and urban families.
He said Kenya has released five new disease resistant potatoes varieties in the last six years to help improve food security in the country, noting that an additional five new varieties are undergoing trials and will also be unveiled to farmers soon.
“The varieties are undergoing National Performance Trials (NPT) and are expected to add new seeds into the national seed potato delivery system,” Kireger said. Enditem