Farmers’ lobby to boost E. African potato yields

Lack of improved seeds, use of obsolete technology, lack of access to credit, effects of climate change and cartel-like behaviour are some of the factors that have been blamed for the East African Community’s (EAC) low production of potatoes.

Last week during the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme’s (CAADP) regional Africa forum in Rwanda, which focused on the potato value chain in EAC, sector players called for collaboration with a view to sealing the gaps hindering high regional production. Value chain players also faulted EAC’s governments for failing to allocate adequate funding for the production of seeds and value addition.

Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) CEO Stephen Muchiri said the current situation has seen major hotels and traders turn to Morocco, Egypt and South Africa to meet demand for the crop. He added that there is high potential for a potato value chain in East Africa, but the crop has been neglected, despite Rwanda having one of the highest-quality produce in the world.

In Kenya, the potato sub-sector, which has an annual turnover of more than Sh50 billion, is largely dominated by cartels who dictate price and segment the market. Mr Muchiri added. The crop is grown mainly by small-scale farmers, although some larger-scale growers specialise in commercial production.

“In major markets in the country, for example Wakulima in Nairobi, Karatina air market in Nyeri, and Kongowea market in Mombasa, the potato business is controlled by a few traders who bar new entrants,” said Muchiri. “Potatoes are grown by over 800,000 farmers, cultivating 60,000 acres, but a majority are smallholders and only produce enough for household consumption.”


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