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Over 40 percent of potato harvest in Nakuru, valued at Sh3billion goes to waste yearly

Over Sh3 billion worth of potatoes goes to waste in Nakuru County every year due to shortage of storage facilities.
County Executive Committee Member for Agriculture Dr. Immaculate Njuthe Maina said though farmers netted Sh9.4 billion from sale of 541,000 metric tons of potatoes in 2018, post harvest losses of the crop stood at over 40 percent.
Dr. Maina observed that though productivity of potato tubers ranges from between eight and 10 tonnes per hectare, depending on agricultural practices and agro-ecological zone grown, the County had the untapped potential to realize 25 tonnes per hectare.
“It is possible to more than double the productivity by using good agricultural practices such as the growing of certified seed potato. All stakeholders need to invest in storage facilities where a farmer can keep his potatoes for over four months until prices stabilize,” stated the county executive.
Speaking during the Nakuru County Irish Potato Value Chain Stakeholders forum organized by the National Agricultural and Rural Inclusive Growth Project (NARIGP) Saturday Dr. Maina said there was need for development of online platforms that will enable potato farmers query and get information on availability of certified seed as well as market potatoes.
“We are partnering with Youth with Information Communication Technology (ICT) backgrounds to come up with mobile apps that will be used to disseminate potato related information to farmers. These platforms will update farmers on market trends and weather conditions,” she said.
Profitability of the Sub Sector, she added had been hard hit by current erratic weather, emerging crop pests and diseases whose control pushed production costs higher due to high cost of farm inputs and poor marketing structures.
“Increasing cost of production has affected potato farming. It is time that our farmers moved away from rain fed potato farming which is becoming unsustainable and embrace water harvesting and irrigation for dry seasons. We are engaging agro chemical manufacturers to have them lower the cost of farm inputs. The County is also streamlining marketing structures to cut on post harvest losses that we witness during over production of the crop,” she stated.
The interventions, Dr. Maina said, are expected to enable potato farmers double their yields and incomes through adoption of good agricultural practices and post-harvest management technologies.
In Nakuru, there are about 20,000 farmers growing potatoes on 38,000 acres where assorted varieties are grown with shangi dominating.
During the forum, lack of certified seeds, pests and disease infestation, fluctuating market prices, and exploitation by brokers were identified as some of the issues bedeviling the potato sub-sector in the County.
Despite the government having standardized the packaging of farm produce at 50 kilograms, brokers do not adhere to the rule and counties have consistently failed to implement the policy over the last six years.
Dr. Maina said her department has been working with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) and the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (Karlo) in providing quality certified potato seeds to farmers in the nine counties that are the main potato producers in the country.
“It is unfortunate that there have been challenges in implementing the 50-kilogram bag rule for farm produce with farmers being exploited by brokers who stash between 100 and 180 kilogram bags of the potatoes and buy it for as little as Sh800,” said the county executive.
Dr. Maina said the devolved unit was educating farmers on the safe use of agrochemicals and pesticides.
“Farmers need to be educated on the safe use of chemicals at the farm. The county has also put in place a community service provider unit for control of diseases and pests. We are training our youth on new emerging trends in crop disease and pest surveillance and control,” she said.
By Anne Mwale/Dennis Rasto

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