Kenya Seeks USD6m for Potato Seed Study
Kenya has applied for a SH656m (USD6m) grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to boost research on potato seed production and cut reliance on imports. The fund will be used to increase the availability of certified seed in the country and cut the imports of tubers, which has been blamed for introducing foreign pests in the country.
At the moment, Kenya relies on Netherlands for importation of potato seed for production as the country hardly produces enough to be supplied to farmers. “We do not produce enough potato seed in the country and we always have to import for multiplication before we distribute it to farmers. With these funds, we shall be able to produce good quality tubers and produce enough for our needs,” Agriculture PS Hamadi Boga said.
Speaking during a workshop on tuber crops in the country, organized by Self Help Africa, Hamadi said Kenya only produces below 2% of the recommended seed.
He said Kenya is relying on countries like Tanzania to meet the Irish potatoes demand as the current variety that farmers grow does not meet the required quality for making food such as French fries.
Kenya’s seed demand stands at 30,000 tons annually but the country only produces 6,700 tons, with most farmers recycling crop from the previous season to use as seed, a move that has been blamed for the shortage that the country faces. The country produces about two million tons of potatoes annually even though the country has potential of yielding up to eight million tons.
Scientists at Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (Kalro) have been calling on a ban in imports of all potato seed and instead want the government to pump more money towards research to enable local production of seed and avert diseases and pests that come with importation of the material.