Despite an increase of 60% in the area of cultivated land, production has been declining from an average of 20 tonnes a hectare to around 9.1 in Rwanda, 8.6 in Kenya and 4.3 in Uganda. This is way below the potential production of 40 tonnes a hectare. The factors contributing to the low and declining yields include losses due to attack by a range of pests and diseases. Potato cyst nematodes (PCN) are the most recent pest threat to emerge in the region. Targeting the nematode during hatching and just before it invades host roots, stands out as the most vulnerable life stage to target for their management.
In a news story published by iAfrica, titled “Urgent Action Needed To Protect SA’s Potato Industry”, it is said that South Africa is a key destination for processed potato product exports from the EU “where there is a history of dumping”. This is set to have a negative impact on the country’s agricultural sector and surrounding communities, according to the news article. André Jooste, CEO of Potatoes South Africa (PSA), is quoted as saying that the local potato industry has already suffered significantly from a decrease in demand as a result of COVID-19 related regulations, such as the closure of restaurants and fast food outlets, restricted trade and movement of informal traders.
The head of the Union for Producers and Exporters of Horticultural Crops (UPEHC) Mohamed Heggi announced Saturday that Egypt’s exports of potatoes this year has fallen by 25 percent, due to the coronavirus crisis and its impact on exports in general. Egypt exported 673,000 tons of potatoes this year, falling short of the target for 850,000 tons. He added that potatoes were planted on 408,000 feddans (171,000 ha), with the largest amount cultivated during the winter planting period which saw production reaching three million tons.
Erongo governor Neville Andre in Namibia on Friday received twenty refrigerated shipping containers (500 tonnes) with potatoes which Malta sent to Namibia as a donation. The Mediterranean island had an excess stock of potatoes this season, resulting in the donation to Namibia through its government overseas aid programme. This consignment of potatoes will be distributed to approximately 160 000 people in vulnerable communities in Namibia.
Years of mismanagement, corruption and increasing population led to the loss of at least 75% of farmland in Second Village in Egypt and the surrounding areas, according to Abdel-Fattah el-Aweidi, head of Gazaer Qouta Agriculture Association, overseeing the area. Now, it is feared that a dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the Nile’s main tributary, could add to the severe water shortages already hitting farmers severely if no deal is struck to ensure a continued flow of water.
Scientists at CGIAR-IITA, working with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) (under the joint Nematology Unit, NemAfrica, based in Nairobi), and their national and international partners have been at the forefront of efforts to address a new emerging pest threat to the production of potato in the East Africa region: potato cyst nematodes (PCN), These destructive pests can cause yield losses of up to 80%, and in some instances, even total crop failure, reports Kilimo News in a recent article.
A breakthrough in how soils are analyzed, known as soil spectroscopy, is equipping both farmers and government decision-makers with a new tool in combatting land degradation and improving farmers’ crop yields and income. Soil spectroscopy analysis has proven to be faster, cheaper and more precise than conventional testing, giving agricultural producers at all scales vital information on how to improve their soils, in turn boosting crop yields and food production. The technology uses infrared electromagnetic radiation to measure how much energy the soil surface reflects at specific wavelengths, providing what scientists call a spectral signature.
The potential of the potato has only just begun to be realized, writes
Sandra Cordon in this article published by Landscape News. Some 368 million metric tons of potatoes were harvested globally in 2019, as people from Vietnam to Kenya, the Peruvian Andes to Rwanda produced a wide variety of the root vegetable, helping feed an estimated 1.3 billion people who rely on them as a staple food. And this is a minimum threshold – potato production is expanding across parts of Africa and Asia.
The Agrico East Africa team was working hard the past few months to produce video tutorials on ‘Profitable Potato Farming in Kenya’. They did this in a well-rewarded effort to continue their work of rendering agronomic support to smallholder farmers in Kenya, despite the debilitating COVID-19 restrictions that was imposed on Kenyan citizens during the pandemic. Agrico East Africa (EA), operating as Potato Services Africa Limited, has been working in Kenya since 2015 as a merchant of – Kenyan produced – certified potato seed.
Technology to accelerate potato breeding in Lima… state of the art tools to diagnose crop diseases in the fields of Uganda… and fresh hearty varieties to boost incomes for smallholder farmers in India. These are just a few of the accomplishments of the International Potato Center (CIP) in 2019, which is commemorating those feats, and others, in its annual report, released this week. The annual report presents compelling snapshots of CIP’s work with 161 partners in 19 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, telling stories about relief work with sweetpotato in Mozambique and simple storage innovations that are putting more income in the pockets of Ethiopian farmers.
A UK manufacturer of vegetable harvesting and handling machinery has supplied its first to order to South Africa thanks to a recommendation from a Canadian company. Scotts Precision Manufacturing has sent one of its Evolution separators to Bestbier South Africa after Allan Equipment in Canada recommended the unique machine. Designed in Boston, Lincolnshire, the Evolution gently separates vegetables from soil and clod and haulm.
In the last three months (April – June), the potato value chain component of the USAID-supported Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) program has continued implementing field activities, albeit at a slow pace due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Critical field activities such as seed distribution, establishment of learning farms, field crop management, and training of host farmers and farmer group representatives at the learning farms are ongoing though.
The World Potato Congress Inc. Board of Directors is extremely pleased to announce Potatoes South Africa as WPC’s first Sustaining Partner from Africa. President & CEO Romain Cools stated: “With Potatoes South Africa joining the WPC Sustaining Partner family, it further illustrates that the World Potato Congress is a global networking organization. Welcome Potatoes South Africa!” Potatoes South Africa (PSA) is a non-profit company under the Companies Act, 2008 (Act 71 of 2008), whose main objectives are to serve as the mouthpiece of the South African potato producers,
Potato is the second most consumed crop in Kenya after maize. However, majority of the farmers still struggle to access quality clean seed and this has always led to reduced productivity. Using rooted apical cuttings introduced through USAID’s Feed the Future Accelerated Value Chain Development Program (AVCD) is changing this. Cuttings are similar to nursery grown seedlings. They are produced from tissue culture plantlets in a screenhouse and are clean and free from disease.
To make up for the monthly potato production shortfall, drought stricken Namibia will have to spend around N$160,2 million on potato imports for the next five months – N$13 million a month. This was revealed by the Namibia Agronomic Board. The country’s production forecast for the next five months revealed that local farmers will only produce 8 121 tonnes of potatoes, while the country needs 19 144 tonnes. Potatoes are the most consumed fresh produce product in the country, with an average demand of 3 800 tonnes every month.
The National Government in Kenya will reportedly build a multi-million dollar cold-room storage facility in Molo in the country to “cushion potato farmers against post-harvest losses and eliminate exploitation by brokers”.The cold room is reportedly designed to hold four million kilograms (4,000 metric tonnes) of potatoes, and will be equipped with an information centre and storage area which will prolong the shelf life of the potatoes for a period of four to six months, maintaining its quality. Nakuru is among the largest producers of the crop in Kenya with the County accounting for 18.9 percent of national production.
On 28 June, the first shipment of Yara’s premium fertilizer sat sail from Yara’s production facility in Porsgrunn, Norway towards East Africa. Yara has committed 40,000 tonnes of premium fertilizer, agronomic expertise and digital enablement to smallholder farmers in a public-private partnership supported by the UN World Food Program, the Norwegian government and African institutions. Heading for Kenya and Tanzania, the first 20,000 tonnes of YaraMila onboard the cargo ship Bonette left the plant during the early morning hours on Sunday.
Potato is a popular crop in Uganda with great potential for income generation and improving nutrition. So much so that the Ugandan government has declared potato a key crop for the country. In Uganda, International Potato Center (CIP) partners with the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) to release and promote improved varieties of potato and sweetpotato. NARO and CIP have developed a new version of the Victoria variety by adding three resistance genes (3R). The 3R Victoria potatoes are completely resistant to late blight.
Fight against powdery scab: South African researchers identified two ideal plant species for potato crop rotation
A study by researchers in the Potato Pathology Programme at the University of Pretoria identified oat and soybean as “ideal to be included as trap crops in rotations with potatoes”. This is a first study in southern Africa on alternative weed and cultivated hosts of the cercozoan Spongospora subterraneaf. sp. subterranea, which causes the potato disease powdery scab.
Contributions needed to bring new late blight resistant potato variety to smallholder farmers’ fields in East Africa
The 2Blades Foundation, a non-profit research organization based in the Chicago area, is a principal sponsor of a research project that recently completed the development of a potato variety that is completely resistant to late-blight. 2Blades is seeking contributions to help bring this disease-resistant potato variety to market and fight hunger in East Africa.
Investigative Report: Potato production in Egypt – ‘Export demands increase interest in bio-pesticides’
GROPRO Corp. a US based producer and supplier of biological crop protection products, has recently completed a investigative agricultural tour of Egypt. According to the group of specialists from GROPRO, “We believe that bio crop protection products will play an important role in the near future to assist in developing the Egyptian potato industry – not only to improve the efficiency of crop production in general, but for farmers to attain better quality products and higher yields.”
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of people facing acute hunger could double. Supported by the United Nations, the Norwegian government and African institutions, Yara is taking action and committing $25 million to provide food for more than one million people in Southern and Eastern Africa. Yara is launching Action Africa: Thriving Farms, Thriving Future – an initiative with the goal to mobilize support for 250,000 smallholder farmers in seven African countries to secure food production and improved food security. The initiative includes advocacy and partnerships, farmer connectivity and digital solutions, and operational support including 40,000 metric tons of high quality fertilizers