Irish potatoes in the market
The Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) in collaboration with potato breeders have introduced 52 new Irish potato varieties for smallholder farmers in Kenya.
These include Ambition, Laura, Lady Amarilla, Derby, Markies, Sagitta, Saviola, Musica, Royal, Jelly, El Mundo, Faluka, Challenger, Evora, Panamera, Rodeo, Sifra, Voyager, UNICA, Konjo, Carolus, Zafira, Milva, Connect, Sarpo Mira, Mayan Gold, among others. However, shangi controls about 70% of the market. The new varieties are resistant to diseases other than bacterial wilt, a move that will help farmers cut cost incurred in controlling diseases.
For a long period of time small scale potato farmers in Kenya have been harvesting about 30-50 bags of 110 kilograms per acre against a potential production of 150 bags per hectare. This is set to change with the introduction of the new high yielding varieties.
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The released diversities meets quality standards set by international fast food joints and are suitable for making chips and crisps,” says Kephis Managing director Esther Kimani. The release of the potato varieties is sweet music to smallholder farmers as stakeholders in the hotel industry will buy the produce directly from them as opposed to importing them from outside which has been the situation to date.
According to KEPHIS, 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 %)
Potatoes are short cycle crops and can replace the production of maize which has been affected by pests and diseases over the last few years.
Potato prices in Kenya vary from town to town.
The varying prices of potatoes in Kenyan towns according to Soko+, a digital commodity trading and information system, linking small scale farmers to end retailers/bulk purchasers of produce.