Scottish seed potato growers may have another export market in the future following successful growing trials in Kenya.
It follows a concerted effort by the Agricultural & Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) and Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture to open up the African market.
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AHDB’s Rob Burns said: “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.”
He stressed the importance of the market, adding: “Potatoes are the second most important food crop in Kenya after maize with two to three million tonnes grown annually.
“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.”
Ten varieties have been sent for trialing; four free varieties – Hermes, Atlantic, Cara and Russet Burbank – and six commercial varieties provided by the James Hutton Institute. The varieties selected are processing varieties which are expected to thrive in hot, dry conditions.
Most farmers in Kenya use poor-quality home-saved seed and grow as little as ten tonnes of potatoes per hectare. The seed is blamed for endemic spread of diseases.
Burns reckoned the GB seed currently being trialled should not only be healthier but should produce 40-50 tonnes of potatoes per hectare.