Kevian Kenya, the company that makes the popular Afia and Pick N Peel juices, has struck a deal with an Irish firm to produce certified potato seedlings required to revamp local output and improve household incomes.
Kimani Rugendo, the proprietor and managing director at Kevian, said the partnership between his firm and IPM Potato Group seeks to address the shortage of quality potato seeds and help producers meet the annual demand of 40,000 tonnes.
“The aim is to produce very clean quality potato seeds and our target is to be able to make available over 2,000 tonnes of certified potato seeds per year by 2021,” Mr Rugendo said yesterday when he hosted a delegation of 13 potato experts from Ireland in Nanyuki town. The two firms unveiled Kirinyaga Seeds as the investment vehicle that will produce certified seeds for the local market.
Under the partnership, Kevian Kenya Limited will offer 200 acres in its Timau farm in Meru for the initial trials while IPM Potato Group will offer expertise and machinery. “Currently, we are going through trials and registration and are working closely with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) who are offering much needed support in soil testing, seed testing for bacteria and certification,” Mr Rugendo said.
IPM Potato Group is also expected to bring in germplasm technology (a living tissue from which new plants can be grown) from Ireland. This will be taken through tissue culture laboratory to produce mini-tubers that will then be brought to the farm for multiplication.
“A lot of capital injection will be needed because this is a huge project. We are relying more on partnerships to help produce quality potato seedlings that can boost both small and large-scale farmers’ output,” Sean Owens from IPM Potato Group said without disclosing the amount of money his firm is investing in the joint venture. Mr Owens added that trials are currently under way for certain varieties that should culminate in selection of the best for commercialised agri-processing production of crisps and French fries.
“With availability of quality potato seedlings, better harvests will be achieved. Kirinyaga Seeds Company will eventually buy the potatoes from the farmers for commercialisation and eventually set up a production plant in Kenya that will produce crisps, and French fries for local market,” he said.
Potato farmers in Kenya have been experiencing low and poor harvests after being duped by unscrupulous traders who sell to them uncertified seeds.
Most households in Laikipia, Nyeri, Bomet, Nyandarua Nakuru and Meru counties rely on potatoes to earn a living but do not attain the optimal output owing to low quality seedlings and attack by pest and diseases.