Ireland agribusiness firm IPM Potato Group on Wednesday signed a joint venture with Kevian Kenya Limited to co-invest in quality potato seedlings.
The two firms unveiled Kirinyaga Seeds as the investment vehicle to produce certified seeds for the local market.
“The focus is to achieve a clean quality seed potatoes and our projection is to be able to produce over two thousand tonnes of certified potato seeds per year by 2021,” Kevian Kenya Limited Managing director Kimani Rugendo said when he hosted a delegation of thirteen potato experts from Ireland in Nairobi.
“Currently, we are doing trials and registration and we are working closely with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) who are offering the much needed support in soil test, seed test for bacteria and certification,” Mr. Rugendo added.
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Under the partnership, Kevian Kenya Limited will offer two hundred acres for potato planting in its Timau farm in Meru County for the initial trials while IPM Potato Group will offer the machinery.
‘’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” Sean Owens from IPM Potato Group said.
“We are doing trials on certain varieties and we will pick the best on different aspects that can eventually be commercialized to produce crisps, French fries among others for the local market,” he added
The delegation projects that Kenya currently requires 40,000 tons of seedlings per annum citing a huge demand for the product.
IPM Potato Group is also expected to bring in Germplasm technology (A living tissue from which new plants can be grown) from Ireland which will be taken through tissue culture laboratory to produce mini-tubers.
The latter comes as a plant tissue and is taken through screening process for pests and diseases.
The investors project that with quality potato seedlings, more harvests will be achieved by farmers and Kirinyaga Seeds will eventually buy the potatoes from the farmers for commercialization and eventually set up a production plant in Kenya that will produce crisps, French fries for local market.
Kenya is a potato growing country where most households in Laikipia, Nyeri, Bomet, Nakuru and Meru counties relies mostly on the produce to earn a living.
Influx of the same product in Kenya from the neighbouring Tanzania has exposed local farmers to huge losses.