Zimbabwe: Potato growers fed up with high cost of seeds

A kilogramme of (Irish) potato seeds has increased to Rwf700 from between Rwf400 and Rwf500 in the last farming season which ended in February 2020, according to the Federation of Irish Potato farmers’ cooperatives in Rwanda.

If a kilogramme of potato seeds is Rwf700, a farmer has to invest about Rwf1.4 million per a hectare because an estimated 2,000 kilogrammes (two tonnes) of the seeds are needed per a hectare, according to data from the Rwanda Agriculture Board. Yet, a kilogramme of potato produce [for consumption] is usually around Rwf200.

Figures from the Seasonal Agricultural Survey - 2020 Season A by the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda show that eight tonnes of potatoes were produced per hectare. That would make about Rwf1.6 million. If production costs including fertilisers, labour force, as well as pesticides and fungicides are factored in, too little is left for the farmer to benefit.

Speaking to The New Times, Vincent Havugimana, the President of the Federation of Irish Potato farmers’ cooperatives in Rwanda said that the shortage of potato seeds is a concern for farmers and it needs to be addressed.

“There has been a shortage of potato seeds, with a kilogramme costing Rwf700 compared to between Rwf400 and Rwf500 in the previous season. Seed multipliers are few, while potato produce went down [in the last farming season],” Havugimana said.

He called for scaled up efforts to increase seed production and availability to farmers through promoting seed multiplication, highlighting the need for research development to come up with new and highly productive potato varieties.

“Available seeds are generally old which make them less productive. Meanwhile, there are about eight new potato seed varieties which were developed, but they are not accessible to farmers as they are still more at multiplication level,” he said.

[ Rwf1 = €0,00093 ]

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