Economy

Potato experts from Africa to hold talks over low production

sweet

Women harvest sweet potatoes in Homa Bay County. FILE

Potato experts from Africa will meet in Nairobi next month to seek ways of increasing production and link producers to international markets. Potato is the second important crop after maize with a short period of maturity and immense potential in terms of food security in Africa.

The convention will bring together interested parties from sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world to share insights with invited scientists on ways to improve the produce. The forum is a joint venture between the National Potato Council of Kenya and African Potato Association.

‘‘This will be a knowledge sharing forum that will link potato producers to international buyers with the aim of enhancing market penetration,’’ said Wachira Kaguongo, the executive officer Potato Council.

Mr Wachira said the experts will discuss ways to harmonise seed standards in East Africa to ensure farmers grow quality produce to reduce crop-related diseases.

Varieties

The commodity is grown by over 800,000 farmers in Kenya and the sub-sector employs 2.5 million people including producers, marketers, agents and the processors according to the council.

Jan Jow of the International Potato Centre and leader of the Sweet Potato for Profit and Health Initiative said the introduction of the orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties is a major pro-vitamin A source. Its deficiency among children in Africa under the age of five is widespread.

Potato production in Kenya has been hampered by high disease incidence and distribution of poor quality seeds based on improper agronomic practices.

‘‘Potato sector is often neglected as a crop for agricultural development and food security in the sub-Saharan Africa though it has a huge potential in poverty reduction,’’ said Elmar Schulte a scientist with International Potato Centre.