Potato is the second most important food and cash crop after maize in Kenya and it occupies a prime position in terms of contribution to food security, poverty eradication, and economic development. According to Grow Africa, potato production in the East African Community has grown by 340% over the past 20 years, and average potato consumption has increased at a similar pace, growing by approximately 300% in the same period. This is due to increased urbanization and consequently increased uptake of processed potato products such as crisps and chips. Despite this growth in production and consumption, potato farmers have failed to benefit, with farm-gate prices remaining very low at US$0.15/kg, largely due to highly fragmented supply chains. Productivity per hectare also remains low in the region, largely due to lack of quality inputs, particularly certified seed, requiring potato farmers to often plant up to three crops in the same year. Further challenges are presented by a lack of potato variety information in terms of variety use, tuber features, maturity period, yields and disease and pest resistance.
Potato yields per ha has remained low over the years mainly due to adverse weather conditions, poor soil fertility, use of low yielding varieties and majorly poor quality seeds. The use of low yielding varieties and poor quality seed is highly attributed by the existing inefficient seed system, regulatory and policy framework and information asymmetry. The use of certified seed and other quality seed has remained low despite efforts over the years from the government and development partners. Currently, there are more than 6 registered private seed merchants producing both local and imported varieties but there production cannot suffice the demand.
Furthermore, majorities of farmers are aware of the importance of quality seed and are willing to pay some premium for quality. Farmer seed system dominates the sub‐sector with the highest percentage of the total seed used, while certified seed contribute least percentage of more than 2%.
Potato is one of the enterprises that will play a great role towards the realization of the set objectives of Kenya vision 2030 under the economic pillar because of its substantial contribution to food availability in the region.
Potato productivity will be increased by facilitating supply of certified seeds, promotion of irrigation, assisting farmers to access affordable and quality inputs, promotion of good agronomic practices, facilitating availability of potato production machinery, management of pests and diseases, promotion of proper harvesting techniques and diversifying forms of utilization. Key issues among these will be awareness and linkage between seed growers and potato farmers.
Farmers being trained by NPCK on different potato varieties and their uses.