The case of potato sub-sector in Kenya

February 2, 2012
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A bag of potatoes/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2 – In an effort to increase the sale of potatoes, the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) is conducting a four-month study to identify challenges faced by the industry and compile a guide book to inform policy makers and investors how to develop and sustain the crop as a vibrant sub-sector.

The study is titled “Policy Makers Information Needs: The case of potato sub-sector in Kenya.” NPCK Chief Executive Officer Wachira Kaguongo said that they were facing internal challenges that need to be addressed before the industry can be successful in the local and global market.

The study began in December and the guidebook is due out in March.

Potatoes are the second most harvested crop in the country next to maize and the industry employs over 2.5 million people, but it’s barely tapping into its potential in the market.

“We produce about 1.1 million tonnes of potatoes annually on 158,000 hectares but the yield is very low compared to other countries such as Egypt and South Africa,” he said.

Reasons for low yield numbers include poor quality seed, high disease incidences, and lack of suitable potato varieties.

With the prolonged drought season in the region affecting the production of maize and other crops, the demand for potatoes has skyrocketed due to its low price and convenient preparation time.

Despite the local demand, hotels and restaurants are importing from countries like South Africa and Egypt due to the poor quality of local potatoes.

“We need to help farmers understand why they should use the correct management, production, storage, and post/pre harvest handling, so the processors get quality potatoes to create good products.”

Kaguongo said that they plan to get greater involvement and funding from the private sector along with research support from universities around the country.

The study is being funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation with experts from the NPCK, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute helping with implementation of the findings.

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