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October 19, 2008

Kenya to pay renewed attention to potato farming

Minister of Agriculture William Ruto has said that the Kenya Government has entered into partnership with a Dutch company to help rejuvenate the production and marketing of potatoes.

Mr Ruto also said that his ministry is finalising the paperwork for establishment of a Potato Board that will oversee the process. He is on a week-long tour of the Netherlands to enhance Kenya’s potato, horticultural and diary farming interests and prospects.

Ruto said his ministry’s partnership with Dutch company Agrico Potatoes will help rejuvenate potato farming in Kenya, which has been affected by a host of difficulties, including lack of certified seed and cold storage facilities. These along with a virtually non-existent production and marketing chain have seen Kenya fail to capitalise on its potential for potato farming.

Lack of cold storage facilities has led to wasted crop, low prices and exposed farmers to unscrupulous middlemen.

“I’m glad that business people and government agencies in the Netherlands have agreed to work with private enterprises in Kenya and with the government to develop new, well-researched, high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties,” Ruto said.

He noted that, ultimately, Kenya would benefit from the research experience and expertise in potato business that is available in the Netherlands, especially since the biggest problem in the Kenyan potato industry is the lack of well-researched yielding varieties of the tuber.

The minister added that the government already has ideas on how to obtain funding for the project. “The start-up capital is the responsibility of the government and we have already identified the sources of the seed money for this project.

“The Netherlands has the right cold storage technology and it is these facilities that will help Kenya make potatoes available all year round and also develop the potential for export,” he added.

Agrico Potatoes’ Export Manager, Mr Jacob Mijnheer, appealed to the Kenya Government to create an enabling environment for the development of potato farming.

“We need to be sure about the regulations and the Kenya Government needs to be clear about the restrictions as this would help the private businesses to flourish. Kenya has great potential in potato farming,” Mijnheer said.

Daily Nation

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