Eastern African countries to harmonize potato seed standards

Eastern African countries plan to have a uniform policy on potatoes in the region with a view to promoting the popular crop.
  Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan are working together to harmonize potato seed standards across the region.

  "Adoption of the harmonized seed standards and procedures will promote quality so that agricultural productivity is improved in the region," the National Potato Council of Kenya (NPCK) CEO Wachira Kaguongo said during a media briefing on the upcoming Ninth Triennial African potato Association conference in Nairobi this month.
   The five-day conference will bring over 200 scientists from Africa and the rest of world to review latest research and innovations in the sector.
   Kaguongo said while Kenya leads the East and Central African region in the potato sector, it is still far behind the rest of the world.
   "As a result, some restaurants are forced to import potato products from countries where the crop can be traced to the farmers," he said on May 22.
   NPCK boss said that Kenya's potato farmers lose up to 36 million US dollars annually due to post harvest losses. Kaguongo said the losses have a huge negative impact on the rural economy.
   "The damage is estimated at between 15 to 40 per cent of crop value, which affects many farmers incomes," he said.
   Ministry of Agriculture potato programme coordinator Dr. Joseph Maina said in 2012, the total area under the crop was estimated at 143,325 hectare. He said average yields per hectare were between seven and 10 tonnes against a potential of 40 tonnes per hectare.
   The coordinator said that South Africa averages 50 tonnes per hectares.
   Maina said that other key constraints for the sector are mainly in the production stage.
   "Most farmers lack quality seed and so the government has embarked on recent initiatives, including the introduction of rapid seed multiplication technology," he said.
   "Certified seeds account for only 1.5 per cent of planted material. The rest consisting of over 98 per cent is sourced from other farmers who keep replanting using materials from previous harvests," said Maina. (Xinhua)