Ireland agribusiness firm IPM Potato Group on Wednesday signed a joint venture with Kevian Kenya Limited to co-invest in quality potato seedlings all through to processing.
The two firms unveiled Kirinyaga Seeds as the investment vehicle to produce certified seeds for the local market.
‘’The focus is to achieve a very clean quality seed potatoes and our projection is to be able to produce over two thousand tons’ of certified potato seeds per year by 2021,” Kevian Kenya Limited Managing director Kimani Rugendo said yesterday when he hosted a delegation of thirteen potato experts from Ireland in Nairobi yesterday.
“Currently, we are only going through trials and registration and we are working closely with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services(KEPHIS) who are offering much needed support in soil test, seed test for bacteria and certification,” Mr. Rugendo added Under the partnership, Kevian Kenya Limited will offer two hundred acres for potato planting in its Timau farm in Meru County for the initial trials while IPM Potato Group will offer machinery.
“A lot of capital injection will be needed because this is a huge project .We are relying more on partnerships to help produce quality potato seedlings that can boost both small and large scale farmers output. On our part we bring in both financial and machinery support,” Sean Owens from IPM Potato Group said without disclosures on financial support they will be offering.
“We are doing trials on certain varieties and we will pick the best on different aspects that can eventually be commercialized to produce crisps, French fries among others for the local market,” he added.
The delegation projects that Kenya currently requires 40,000 tons of seedlings per annum citing a huge demand for the product.
IPM Potato Group is also expected to bring in Germplasm technology (A living tissue from which new plants can be grown) from Ireland which will be taken through tissue culture laboratory to produce mini-tubers which will then be brought to the farm for multiplication.
The latter comes as a plant tissue and is taken through screening process for pests and diseases.
The investor’s projects that with quality potato seedlings, more harvests will be achieved by the farmers where Kirinyaga Seeds will eventually buy the potatoes from the farmers for commercialization and eventually set up a production plant in Kenya that will produce crisps, French fries for local market.
Potato farmers in Kenya have been experiencing low and poor harvests after being duped by unscrupulous traders who sell to them uncertified seeds that end up affecting the produce from their farms.
Kenya is a potato growing country where most households in Laikipia,Nyeri,Bomet,Nakuru and Meru counties relies mostly on the produce to earn a living but with low harvests buoyed by poor seedlings and subsequent influx of the same product in Kenya from the neighbouring Tanzania has exposed local farmers to huge losses.