Kenyan farms are set to get a makeover through potato seed straight from Scotland farmers eyeing the seed potatoes market estimated at £50million (Ksh 6.2billion). This is in the wake of a new deal reported by Scottish media that the government had signed a bilateral agreement with Kenyan authorities.
Kenya, through its agricultural research units like the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (Kari), has been working on programmes to provide reliable seed sources and to help farmers stop the heavy reliance on farm-saved seed potatoes as planting material, which results in frequent reinfection of fields.
Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are among the 10 African countries with the largest area under potato. The crop is a source of both food and cash income.Rural Economy secretary Fergus Ewing was quoted as saying the agreement represents recognition of Scotland’s “high-health status and worldwide reputation for producing high quality seed potatoes”.
He termed the deal a boost for Scottish farmers as the potential market demand in Kenya is significant as it grows around 160,000 hectares of potatoes annually, but only two per cent is grown from certified seed.
“The potential market demand is therefore significant,” said Mr Ewing. “This agreement with the Kenyan government will enable farmers to access high-quality Scottish seed potatoes that are free from disease, potentially improving Kenya’s potato crop health and yield. At the moment, only around 2,000 tonnes of certified seed are used when potential demand is closer to 100,000, so there is considerable room for more seed.”
The Scottish official was quoted saying dealers from the Netherlands were already supplying the Kenyan market and it is conceivable that Scottish seed potatoes could be exported next April.
“While a number of our varieties would have to undergo national list testing in Kenya, we already grow two varieties which are on their list, so they could be planted early next year,” he said in the report.
Potato is the second most important food crop in Kenya after maize. There are 13 major potato producing counties, namely Bomet, Bungoma, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Kiambu, Meru, Nakuru, Narok, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Taita-Taveta, Trans-Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and West Pokot.