Kenya has the capacity to produce between eight and 10 million metric tonnes of potatoes annually, say experts. However, the country lags behind Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa, and Egypt, with the annual average production at between 2-3 million metric tonnes. In 2017, Kenya produced 1.15 million tonnes of potatoes with 1.036 tonnes consumed, while the rest went to waste. In 2018, Kenya exported 4,385 kilogrammes of potatoes to Norway (4,075) and UK (310).
“Kenya has the capacity to become the market leader in the region in potato production,” said Mr. Hosea Machuki, the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya chief executive officer.
He was speaking in Nairobi during a potato stakeholders’ workshop to deliberate on the key issues facing the crop and develop an action plan. “This goal can be attained through increased innovation, mechanisation, and large scale production,” he added.
The current production average yield stands at about eight tonnes per hectare, which is lower than benchmarks of 20-40 tonnes per hectare.
“Tanzania is doing much better with an average yield of 20 tonnes per hectare. Other countries such as Ireland have average yields of over 40 tonnes per hectare due to better varieties and management,” Mr. Machuki said.
Potato is an important food crop and is poised to significantly contribute to the food security component of the government’s Big 4 agenda. The National Potato Strategy 2016 – 2020 and Potato Produce and Market Bill 2014, are the two key documents that provide policy direction in the sector.
“The demand for potatoes is increasing countrywide, with entrepreneurs venturing into processing. Increased production, therefore, presents an opportunity for farmers to improve their food security and income from the sale of surplus. However, the government needs to urgently look into the budgetary allocation to the sector. It currently stands at about 3.8 percent, which is much lower than the Maputo Protocol that requires African states to set aside at least 10 percent of their national budgets to finance the agricultural sector,” said Mr. Okisegere Ojepat, the CEO, Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya.