Irish Ambassador Dr Vincent O’Neill yesterday led a delegation from IPM Potato Group Ltd and Kevian Kenya Ltd to meet Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri following the new partnership announced by the two companies.
Kevian Kenya produce the popular Afia and Pick N Peel juices and they announced a deal on Thursday with the Irish firm to create the Kirinyaga Seed Company. This new business will begin the production of certified potato seedlings which are required to increase local output and improve household incomes.
Kevian Managing Director Kimani Rugendo said the partnership between the two businesses seeks to address the shortage of quality potato seeds and help producers meet the annual demand of 40,000 tonnes.
Speaking while hosting a delegation of 13 potato experts from Ireland in Nanyuki Town, Mr Rugendo saod: “The aim is to produce very clean quality potato seeds and our target is to be able to make available over 2,000 tonnes of certified potato seeds per year by 2021.”
Under the partnership, Kevian Kenya Limited will offer 200 acres in its Timau farm in Meru for the initial trials while IPM Potato Group will offer expertise and machinery. “Currently, we are going through trials and registration and are working closely with Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (Kephis) who are offering much needed support in soil testing, seed testing for bacteria and certification,” Mr Rugendo said.
IPM Potato Group is also expected to bring in germplasm technology (a living tissue from which new plants can be grown) from Ireland. This will be taken through tissue culture laboratory to produce mini-tubers that will then be brought to the farm for multiplication.
Sean Owens from IPM Potato Group added: “With availability of quality potato seedlings, better harvests will be achieved. Kirinyaga Seeds Company will eventually buy the potatoes from the farmers for commercialisation and eventually set up a production plant in Kenya that will produce crisps, and French fries for local market.”
Potato farmers in Kenya have been experiencing low and poor harvests after being sold uncertified seeds by unscrupulous traders.
Most households in Laikipia, Nyeri, Bomet, Nyandarua Nakuru and Meru counties rely on potatoes to earn a living but due to low quality seedlings and attacks by pests and disease they do not attain the optimal output.
During yesterday’s meeting with CS Kiunjuri, the delegation discussed areas of collaboration on the production of certified seeds, setting up potato storage facilities, creating potato aggregation centres and creating employment for the youth along the potato value chain.
The plans will deepen Irish interest and investment in Kenyan agriculture and the collaboration will help in the realisation of the government’s Big Four Agenda on achieving 100 per cent food and nutrition security.