KENYA – Kevian Kenya, one of the leading fruit juice producers in Kenya has entered into a contractual partnership with the Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO) to produce high yielding potato seed varieties to meet growing demand.

KARLO has licensed the Thika-based firm to commercialise five of its hybrid potato seeds on a 15-year contract to boost production of the right variety required by multinational franchises for making French fries, who have relied on imports to meet their customer needs, reports Business Daily.

The partnership will see Kevian, the makers of Afia and Pick N Peel juices, pay KARLO royalties at a rate of 2.5 percent of their total annual sales from the potatoes.

KALRO’s Director General Eliud Kireger says the partnership aims to benefit 50,000 farmers in potato growing regions in the country.

“The poor quality of potatoes that we have in the country results from planting and recycling of low-quality seed by farmers,” said Dr Kireger.

To improve the potato value chain, Kevian will distribute the improved potato seeds to farmers and later on purchase the harvest from the same farmers for processing.

“We will offer the best price possible in the market, but farmers would be free to sell their produce elsewhere if they want,” said Kimani Rugendo, the chairman of Kevian.

Kenya has been relying on imports of certified tubers to meet the growing demand for clean seeds for potato farmers with the view to boosting production of the country’s second most popular staple food.

The country’s potato seed demand stands at 30,000 tonnes annually but the country only produces 6,700 tonnes with most farmers recycling previous crop to use as seed, a move that has been blamed for the shortage that the country faces.

Kenya produces about two million tonnes of potatoes annually even though the country has potential of yielding up to eight million tonnes.

The government has been encouraged to come up with more public private partnerships, to link breeders with farmers to improve agricultural output in the country.

In addition, it has been urged to step-up its efforts in enforcing the 50 kgs potato packaging laws, to protect farmers from exploitation and also reduce potato post-harvest losses due to proper handling of the harvest.

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