Prospective Irish potato farmers have been advised to time their crops for planting and harvesting during high demand such as the drought season between December and February each year and festivities such as Easter.
Irish potatoes take an average of 70 to 120 days to mature depending on variety. With an acre in Kenya producing an average of 7,700kg.
The Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture reports that currently there is a shortage of 1.7m metric tons of the product which has pushed up prices of the commodity. In this, farmers currently cultivating the crop are reaping big compared to those who time their crop for planting during the rainy season.
The shortage of the produce is also attributed to the use of unofficial seeds from the previous harvesting season to plant potatoes instead of certified seeds by government seed agencies such as the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS).
According to KEPHIS, the informal sector in Kenya accounts for about 60-70 per cent of most seeds planted by farmers across the country. These seeds are usually uncertified therefore denying farmers the chance to maximize yields on their farms. The hardest hit areas include western Kenya and the Rift Valley regions, which form a bulk of Kenya’s bread basket.
Alliance for a Green Revolution (AGRA) reports that on average only about 20 per cent of farmers in Africa use seeds of improved varieties.
At the moment, the total production of certified seeds is estimated at 6,700 metric tons by the Ministry of Agriculture against a demand of 30,000 metric tons.
The total production of potatoes in 2017 according to the economic survey 2018 was 1.5m metric tons with imports of 4,000 metric tons to curb the deficit.
According to a study by S.R.M Janssens titled ‘The value chain for seed and ware potatoes in Kenya; Opportunities for development’, Potato is grown in Kenya by approximately 500,000 small-scale farmers on 120,000 hectares with an average yield of 7.7 tons per hectare.
Irish potatoes are used to make chips, and crisps served as a snack or appetizer.