Potato World assists small farmers

Small-scale potato farmers in Nyanga and Mutasa District have been receiving training, inputs and marketing connections from a private company called Potato World in order to boost their yields and savings.

Potato field in Nyanga area under Chief Saunyama
Potato field in Nyanga area under Chief Saunyama

Farmers in the two districts, which are the country’s top potato producing areas, have also benefitted from various training workshops organised by Potato World. The company works with 350 farmers and expects the figure to increase to 1,000 by 2015. There are more than 2,000 potato farmers in Nyanga alone.

The company’s managing director, Josphat Manyiyo, said the company was assisting the famers by providing a competitive market, information about modern farming techniques and reliable input providers. “We have introduced a system here to educate farmers about selling their products. As a company we have pegged a commendable 53 cents per kg price ($8-15kgs) against the black market price of $8 for 23kgs.

“We are also expecting to increase production from 16 tons per ha to 25 tons for our members. We have also set a target of 1,000 members over the next two years. This will have a positive outcome on national production, which has been seriously affected by imports from South Africa,” said Manyiyo.

He added that the company was searching for irrigation partners and had plans to engage the government to rehabilitate roads leading to remote potato growing communities.

“We are currently searching for irrigation partners, in order to further boost production as we will be in a position to produce throughout the year. The government will also play a crucial role in the increase of potato production as they can assist by rehabilitating roads in remote areas that record good potato yields.”

Following the controversial land reform programme, many commercial potato farmers were displaced, leading to an increase of small-scale potato production by farmers in areas such as Domboshawa, Chiweshe, Wedza, Goromonzi and Mhondoro.

But national potato production plummeted to 900-1,000ha per year as smallholders struggled to penetrate the market due to the high cost of production, which ranges from $6,000 to $7,000 per hectare.

As a result of these myriad challenges, local demand was met by massive importation of potatoes from South Africa. In December 2010, the Agricultural Marketing Authority imposed a ban on potato imports after serious lobbying from local producers who were unable to compete with the price of South African potatoes – commercially produced by large-scale farmers.

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