Print

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

High hopes for British seed potatoes in Kenya

Official potato trial seed sent to Kenya has passed initial lab tests and is now growing well in three locations. AHDB and SASA have been working together to open the Kenyan market to GB seed with a bilateral agreement signed by the Scottish and Kenyan governments late last year. Since then, there has been a significant amount of work behind the scenes to transport, test and plant seed on Kenyan farms. AHDB’s Head of Crops Export Market Development, Rob Burns, explains: “Before commercial growers can access the market, trial seed needs to be tested and grown over two seasons in at least three geographical locations in Kenya. Fortunately in Kenya there are two growing seasons annually so we hope to reach the end of this process, and open up the market fully, by early 2018. “Potatoes are the second most important food crop in Kenya after maize with about 2-3 million tonnes of potatoes grown annually. The real opportunity in Kenya is in the burgeoning middle class; there is a growing market for premium potato-based products such as crisps and chips, and for these they need the high quality seed for which we are renowned.” A total of ten varieties have been sent for trialing, four free varieties - Hermes, Atlantic, Cara and Russet Burbank – and six commercial varieties provided by the James Hutton Institute. The varieties selected are processing varieties which are expected to thrive in hot, dry conditions. Most farmers in Kenya (95%) use poor quality home saved seed and grow as little as ten tonnes of potatoes per hectare. The seed is blamed for endemic spread of diseases, especially late blight, bacterial wilt and viruses. The GB seed currently being trialed should not only be healthier but should produce 40-50 tonnes of potatoes per hectare.SASA’s Export Liaison Officer, Jackie Gibson, says so far the GB seed planted in Kenya is doing very well. She says: “We sent over 1200 tubers per variety, 400 of which underwent laboratory testing for soft rots; they passed with flying colours. The Syngenta Foundation have been a great partner, helping us identify farms to work with, and 400 tubers per variety were planted on three farms in late April/early May. The final 400 are in cold storage and will be planted out in the second season in October.

Source: Allafrica