Growers in Rwanda’s northern and western provinces are still facing shortages of Irish Potato seeds. The Northern volcanic region accounts for more than 80% of national potato production and 60% of the production is used directly for home consumption in this region. This means if the crop production is affected, it could cause shortages, food insecurity and price hikes.
A farmer from the Busasamana sector -Rubavu district- told The New Times that they faced shortage of seeds due to many factors: “In the previous season we faced a disease called “Sembeshyi” that devastated Irish potato crops and therefore it was not possible to practice ‘positive seed potato selection’ from the affected potatoes. This immediately caused shortage of seeds.”
Positive seed potato selection
‘Positive seed potato selection’ is a simple practice to manage seed potato quality by selecting healthy-looking, vigorous mother plants to obtain seed tubers for the following season’s crop. It is one of the solutions to solve the issue of seeds shortage but farmers say that this was not possible due to the disease that affected the mother plants. The farmer added that the number of seeds multipliers and multipliers who are not professional worsened the shortage of seeds.
Threatening potato production
Statistics from Rwanda Agricultural and Animal Resources Development Board (RAB) indicate that so far, potato farmers harvest an average of 16 tonnes per hectare yet they should be harvesting above 30 tonnes and the problem is largely attributed to the use of ineffective seeds among other factors.
Rwanda produces 916,000 tonnes of Irish potatoes every year, making it the third most popular food crop produced in the country. Potatoes cover 3.9 per cent of the total cultivated area. The average productivity of potatoes is ten tonnes per hectare; low as compared to yield potential.