Potato farmers blame storage facilities for poor quality

Friday December 21 2018

Irish potato farmer

Irish potato farmers have decried lack of facilities to improve the seed quality which is leading to low production. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG 

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Irish potato farmers in Nyabihu district have decried lack of facilities to improve their seed quality which is leading to low production.

Joseph Murwansahaka a resident and a farmer of Irish potato in Nyabihu, said that “he always finds it hard to get boosted seed near his farm requiring him to incur a lot of costs to transport them from Kinigi where the seed boosting centre is.”

“It costs around Rwf7,000 for one sack of Irish Potato from Kinigi to Kintobo sector in Nyabihu,” Mr Murwanashaka said.

This he says is too much for farmers who grow on large piece of land that are requiring them to transport more than 15 sacks of seeds.

“We want the government to help us,” he said, adding that many farmers have small pieces of land.

In 2017, the government signed a multimillion deal with a Nigeria firm with the target of increasing Irish potato production capacity of 10 million tonnes in five years. It was expected to start its operations, processing around 100,000 tonnes of potatoes making frozen French fries at Kigali Special Industrial Zone and potato flakes and crisps at Nyabihu plant.

A cost benefit analysis showed that there was money to be made in Irish potato farming after the new initiates. However, up to date the value chain is encumbered in problems from start to finish.

Studies show that potato seed, storage, agronomy, marketing systems, and consumption is loaded with challenges.

Top hotels are still importing frozen chips due to lack of suitable varieties with the right texture, shape and taste.

According to Innocent Hakizimana, executive secretary of Kintobo Sector in Nyabihu District, there is more potential in smaller units that are easier to manage.

“Storage remains a nightmare, creating an immediate need for county governments to build coolers for farmers for storage and marketing,” Mr Hakizimana said.