Scotland signs major seed potato supply deal with Kenya

Fergus Ewing said the potential market demand from Kenya was 'significant'. Picture: John Devlin
Fergus Ewing said the potential market demand from Kenya was 'significant'. Picture: John Devlin
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Scotland’s farmers could be set to grasp a share of an estimated £50 million market for seed potatoes in Kenya following the announcement that the Scottish Government has signed a bilateral agreement with the Kenyan authorities.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said that the agreement represented further recognition of Scotland’s high-health status and worldwide reputation for producing high quality seed potatoes.

The potential market demand is significant

Fergus Ewing

Kenya grows around 160,000 hectares of potatoes annually, but only 2 per cent is grown from certified seed.

“The potential market demand is therefore significant,” said Ewing. “This agreement with the Kenyan government will enable farmers to access high-quality Scottish seed potatoes that are free from disease, potentially improving Kenya’s potato crop health and yield.”

However, Ewing added that, while Scotland’s exporters had experienced great success in recent years, for this to continue in places like Africa it was absolutely essential that the country remained in the European single market, to avoid existing trade deals unravelling.

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Rob Burns, head of crop exports and market development with the Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board, said that high quality seed such as that from Scotland could offer a considerable boost to the crop, which was second only to maize in Kenya.

He said: “At the moment only around 2,000 tonnes of certified seed are used when the potential demand from the market is closer to 100,000, so there is considerable room for more seed.”

Burns added that although operators from the Netherlands were already supplying this market it was conceivable that Scottish seed potatoes could be used next April.

“While a number of our varieties would have to undergo national list testing in Kenya, we already grow two varieties which are on their list, so they could be planted early next year.”

While almost a third of Scotland’s seed potato industry goes for export, around 30,000 tonnes go to European Union member states another 80,000 tonnes go to 25 different countries outside the EU.

However, Burns said that while new seed crop destinations such as Cuba had been opening up in recent years, there was currently a heavy reliance on the Egyptian market – and that having access to a new and growing market was good news for Scotland’s seed potato industry.

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