By George Munene
The Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) has developed new potato varieties that will last up to five weeks post-harvest without storage, and for four months in a cooling plant. This will enable farmers to store their harvest for longer in anticipation of better future prices.
“This will help curb farmer exploitation by middlemen who buy potatoes at throw-away prices when they are in the season due to their perishability,” noted Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya.
The new potato varieties that are still under trial are expected to be available to farmers from April next year. They will also be more tolerant of disease and pests and mature faster.
Flagship seeds of the potato varieties will be distributed to farmers by the State Department for Agriculture in conjunction with county governments of potato-growing regions.
Among the 38 varieties of Irish Potatoes developed by KALRO between 1953 and 2017, the Shangi variety released in 2015 is the most popular with smallholder farmers in Kenya. It matures early (3-4 months), is highly prolific, cooks fast, and is versatile. Growers have however long complained of its short shelf life and have asked for a variety that they can store longer awaiting better prices at the market.