Agricultural stakeholders led by the Kenya Health Plant Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) are set to market and promote the growing of potatoes in Kenya as a food of choice to enhance food security.
Potato marketing will be done through potato field days set to be organized by all stakeholders in the potato sector in the country.
Stakeholders, who included Agrico, Kisima Farm, Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, International Potato Center, Sereni Flowers, Stokman Rosen, National Potato Council of Kenya, and Gaia Foods met on January 19th to discuss marketing of the tuber and having specific days such as 'Potato Day' where Kenyans would be sensitized on the nutritional value of potato.
According to the National Potato Council of Kenya, Potatoes are the second most important food and cash crop after maize in Kenya. Potatoes are grown by approximately 800,000 smallholder farmers, employ 2.7m actors along the marketing channels and contribute over Sh50bn to the Kenyan economy.
However, the productivity level of the crop stands at less than 10 tonnes per hectare vis-a-vis the maximum production of 40 tonnes which is too low if potatoes are to be primed as a significant contributor to food security. The biggest challenge faced by farmers for increased potato production is lack of certified seeds.
Potato farmers in Kenya prefer growing Shangi, Asante, Tigoni, Kenya Mpya, Desiree, Kenya Karibu and Sherehekea varieties.
Potato stakeholders who attended a two day consultative forum on how to enhance potato production in Kenya at KEPHIS headquarters, Nairobi. The forum explored ways of increasing and improving potato production in Kenya to improve food security. PHOTO/KEPHIS
The top potato producing counties are Nyandarua, Meru, Nyeri, Kiambu, Taita Taveta, Nakuru, Narok, Bomet, Elgeyo Marakwet, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Uasin Gishu and West Pokot; other potato producing counties include Kisii, Nyamira, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Baringo, Nandi, Laikipia and Kericho.
Upcoming potential potato producing counties include Machakos, Makueni, Embu, Kajiado, Tharaka Nithi, Samburu, Kwale and Nairobi. The leading production counties are Nyandarua (29.8 %), Nakuru (18.9 %) and Elgeyo Marakwet (16.2 %).
Farmers countrywide harvest 60-80 bags of 110 kilograms per acre while small holder farmers harvest 30-50 bags of 110 kilograms per acre; this against a potential production of 150 bags per hectare for a 110 kilogram bag.
“A majority of potato farmers keep recycling seeds due to inadequate availability of clean disease free potato seeds in the country,” said Maureen Mwagangi, a plant inspector at KEPHIS.
“We certify all seed producers including smallholder farmers who produce potato seeds for sale,”
Farmers can purchase certified potato seeds from Edward Mbugua, 0722 734 919 or Kisima farm- 0721 325 269.