Over 23,000 Potato Farmers to Benefit from $ 500,000 New Investments in Kenya
During the first ever Nyandarua Potato Fair held on March 3, 2017 in Oljoro Orok, in Kenya, four companies signed Letters of Intent representing new investments of over $ 500,000 into the potato industry. This was facilitated by the East African Potato Consortium, convened by Grow Africa and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and hosted in Kenya by the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK).
This investment will benefit 23,000 producers during the next 24 months, who will have secure production and purchase contracts from potato processors. The companies which signed the new Letters of Intent are Sereni Fries, Gaea Foods, Agricultural Finance Corporation and OJ Greens. Kenya is the first pilot country for the consortium, involves and its potato value chain approximately 2.7 million people among them 800,000 smallholder farmers and contributes to over KES 50 billion (~US $ 500 million) to the economy, according to NPCK.
The initiative is part of the East African Potato Consortium’s efforts to streamline and promote investments in the region’s potato industry through: ensuring that farmers adhere to good agronomical practices, linking both farmers and processors to finance institutions, and connecting farmers to processors.
Kenyan smallholder farmers produce on average just seven tons of potatoes per hectare, compared to the potential yield of 20-30 tons per hectare they would get by using the right seed, recommended farm inputs and good farm management. ‘Shangi’ is one of the most widely grown varieties, although other varieties such as ‘Kenya Karibu’ and ‘Dutch Robyn’ are also grown. Processors favor the Dutch varieties which have better processing qualities, and the consortium’s initiatives will involve encouraging investments in seed production of these preferred varieties to increase their availability to farmers.
David Kimotho, a potato farmer in the area, admits that he has always generated his seed by recycling potatoes for the past 12 years – a common practice attributed to the high cost of seed – and which contributes to poor harvests and low incomes. The consortium encourages farmers to form produce marketing organizations in order to benefit from the new initiatives. Kimotho, has joined the Miragui Green Silver Farmers Corporative, comprising 142 members.
The consortium will also promote the uptake of appropriate mechanization in harvesting, to reduce postharvest losses resulting from manual harvesting that bruises potatoes and lowers the potatoes’ quality. Processors lauded the various initiatives by the consortium which will increase the availability of the desired quantity and quality of the preferred potato varieties. The East Africa potato industry is projected to grow in value to US$1.2 billion by 2025.
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