Scottish seed potatoes to begin exporting to Kenya next year

Potatoes from a Kenyan farm
Potatoes grown in the Kibirichia area of Mount Kenya. Photo: CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture) used under the Creative Commons licence.

The export of Scottish seed potatoes commercially to Kenya will begin from early next year, according to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Along with Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) the levy body has been working to open the Kenyan market to British seed potatoes following the signing of a bilateral agreement between the Scottish and Kenyan Governments late last year.

The seed potatoes have been trialled in three farm locations in Kenya with with both organisations working to transport, test and plant the seeds which have passed initial lab tests and are now said to be growing well in three locations.

“Before commercial growers can access the market trial seed needs to be tested and grown over two seasons in at least three geographical locations in Kenya.

“Fortunately in Kenya there are two growing seasons annually so we hope to reach the end of this process, and open up the market fully, by early 2018.

“The real opportunity in Kenya is in the burgeoning middle class; there is a growing market for premium potato-based products such as crisps and chips, and for these they need the high quality seed for which we are renowned,”

– AHDB head of crops export market development, Rob Burns

Mr Burns added that potatoes were the second most important food crop in Kenya, after maize, with up to 3million tonnes grown each year.

Most farmers in Kenya use poor-quality home-saved seed and grow as little as ten tonnes of potatoes per hectare with the seed is blamed for endemic spread of diseases.

Burns reckoned the British seed currently being trialled should not only be healthier but should produce 40-50 tonnes of potatoes per hectare.

Ten varieties have been provided by the James Hutton Institute for trials in Kenya including four free varieties – Hermes, Atlantic, Cara and Russet Burbank – and six commercial varieties.

“We sent over 1,200 tubers per variety, 400 of which underwent laboratory testing for soft rots; they passed with flying colours. The Syngenta Foundation have been a great partner, helping us identify farms to work with, and 400 tubers per variety were planted on three farms in late April/early May. The final 400 are in cold storage and will be planted out in the second season in October.” – SASA export liaison officer, Jackie Gibson

The crops will be inspected by Kenyan Government officials as the season progresses with a final inspection scheduled to take place after harvest with any variety which making it successfully through the two seasons will be added to Kenya’s national list, meaning it can then be imported from British growers.