Policy, people and potatoes in Kenya

Many Kenyan farmers, entrepreneurs and investors are intensely interested in the preparation of new regulations on the production and marketing of planting materials for vegetatively propagated crops (VPCs), such as potato and sweet potato.

According to a report published on AgriLinks by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), new regulations may determine who can and cannot produce VPC planting material, how quickly yields and output might grow, and what varieties come to dominate the market in the coming years.

According to the report, seed potato and sweet potato vines are produced, stored and traded by farmers in a largely unregulated manner. Exchanges are mainly local, because these planting materials do not travel well, and only a few privately-owned farms and a handful of state-owned seed enterprises and development projects produce certified planting material. As a result, just 4-5 percent of seed potato planted in Kenya is certified, although this is now on the rise with significant investments by the private sector over the last few years.

However, the Government of Kenya is anticipating that by regulating the production and trade in VPC planting material, farmers will gain access to better seed – materials free from pests and diseases. Following amendments to the country’s seed sector policy in 2016, the Government has assigned its regulator, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS), to the task.

Will these regulations accelerate yield and output growth by encouraging large-scale investment in the sector? Or will they pose barriers to entry for those looking to invest in the VPC seed business?

Read the full report in AgriLinks here. Photo credit: David Spielman/IFPRI