New range of potato machinery takes South African market by storm

According to Tinus Prinsloo, CEO of AFGRI Equipment, a leading agricultural services company in South Africa, the Dewulf, Standen and IMAC machinery were the subject of considerable interest at a recent national trade show and conference, so much so that the equipment subsequently went on display again at a farmers’ field day in another part of the country on the 30th of May. “The event was extremely well attended thanks to our display at NAMPO, where the interest was high – clearly word has spread about these very effective machines,” said a delighted Prinsloo. The equipment, which includes a top of the range potato harvester, the four-row self-propelled Dewulf Kwatro, owes its popularity to constant innovation on behalf of the manufacturers, durability and the comparatively low cost of replacement parts. Potato farming is becoming more popular as South African farmers seek to diversify crops to mitigate risk.  Continue reading

Russia lifts ban on Egyptian potato exports from 8 regions

Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Tariq Qabeel said that the Russian authorities have agreed to lift the ban on Egypt exports of potatoes from 8 agricultural areas and to allow the export of these crops starting from June 6. The minister said in a statement on Saturday that the decision comes as a culmination of the negotiations held in Russia on the sidelines of the activities of the Egyptian-Russian Joint Committee held in Moscow in late May. During the meeting, officials discussed the technical problems that hinder the process of agricultural exports and imports between the two countries, including potatoes. The statement said that the Federal Veterinary And Phytosanitary Monitoring Service of Russia reviewed the procedures for the cultivation and export of Egyptian potatoes assuring that they meet the requirements and specifications of Russian authorities. Read more

The Great South African Potato event: How potatoes can alleviate hunger

Do not peel potatoes or deep fry them, suggests South African dietitian Clare Strydom. She stressed that when peeled and soaked before cooking, a large proportion of the water-soluble vitamins could be lost. Strydom was speaking during the Great South African Potato event ahead of World Hunger Day. Potatoes South Africa and Meals on Wheels are among stakeholders who got together last week to strategise on alleviating hunger and demonstrate the important role of potatoes. “With an estimated 14 million people going to bed hungry every night, Potatoes SA and Meals on Wheels Community Services, through the Great SA potato event, have prioritised nourishment in an era when malnutrition caused by a deficiency of vitamins and minerals, remains without physical symptoms,” said Potato SA marketing manager Immaculate Zinde. Read more

Ireland’s Keogh’s to help develop potato farming in Ethiopia

The award-winning Keogh’s Farm in north Co Dublin has committed to a three-year partnership with Vita, which will see it become the first Irish food business to go carbon neutral. Developing a sustainable potato cultivation programme for Ethiopian farmers is the aim of the partnership. Vita is the only Irish not-for-profit overseas development agency to deliver a platform for Irish companies to offset their carbon footprint via their high impact climate-mitigating programmes in Africa. The Keogh family, one of Ireland’s leading crisp makers, has been producing potatoes for over two centuries. Their farm was awarded carbon neutral status in May, which means their emissions are tracked from the field to the crisping house. It is also a member of Bord Bia’s Origin Green sustainability programme. Vita has been working for many years supporting Ethiopian families and communities in building sustainable livelihoods. Read more

Frito-Lay subsidiary in Egypt launches important programme for local potato seed production

Image result for chipsy egyptChipsy for Food Industries in Egypt, a subsidiary of Pepsico (Frito-Lay) announced a significant new programme for the local production of potato seed. “This comes as a result of Chipsy’s long journey of conducting scientific research and field trials, which saw it being rewarded for its use of innovative and state of the art technologies,” the company said in a press release. Through this programme, Chipsy will be able to provide locally cultivated seeds to the Egyptian market. In 2017, the project helped the company to provide 70% of its seeds from local sources, and thanks to this programme, 100% of Chipsy’s potatoes are now locally sourced. Tamer Mosalam, general manager at Chipsy Egypt, stated, “we are very proud of launching this programme, as it will strongly affect the overall Egyptian agricultural sector, the consumer, and definitely the economy.” More

Russia blocks two potato shipments imported from Egypt

Egypt's Ain Sokhna Port (Photo:Reuters)
Russia’s agricultural quarantine authorities flagged two potato shipments from Egypt that were found to be contaminated with potato brown rot. The Ministry of Trade and Industry in Egypt denied the allegation that Russia has imposed bans on potato imports from Egypt due to a lack of quality. He stressed that Russia has not placed a blanket ban on Egypt’s potato exports to Russia. The ministry added that the ban has been limited to two regions, including Beheira, which is where the shipments originated from. Egypt has set phytosanitary regulations, the ministry stated, assuring that Egyptian agricultural exports are free of pests. Such regulations have led to a dramatic upturn in Egypt’s potato exports to Russian markets in 2017, reaching $118.4 million, compared to $ 45.4 million in 2016. More

For the long haul: South Africa’s running potato pathology professor chasing after spud diseases

Jacquie van der Waals is not only a professor of potato pathology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa – she is also a recognized national 10km and cross country runner in that country. Yesterday she came third in her age group during the national sprint triathlon championships in South Africa. Other running achievements include being South African Cross Country Ladies Champion (40 – 44) in 2014 and 2015. Jacquie is the founder and lead of the Potato Pathology Programme at the university. This initiative is the flagship programme for research on bacterial and fungal diseases of potatoes in South Africa, also housing a diagnostic clinic for potato diseases. Research is focused on sustainable, integrated management of potato diseases, currently focused on some of the most pressing potato diseases that potato growers in South Africa deal with – including powdery scab, blackleg / soft rot, and a-typical tuber blemishes, such as corky cracks. Jacquie maintains strong collaborations with researchers in Scotland, The Netherlands, Israel, Poland and Zimbabwe and also work closely with numerous South African colleagues at the University of Pretoria and the Agricultural Research Council. Anyone interested in more details about the Potato Pathology Programme activities is welcome to get in touch with Jacquie at On Twitter: @jacquievdw

Kenya, Ireland team up to improve potato farming

potatoThe Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya and Ireland have launched a programme to improve potato farming in Kenya. The launch on Wednesday was officiated by Ireland Minister for Public Works Kelvin Moran and attended by top Agriculture ministry officials from both countries as well as the Ireland ambassador. The programme seeks to address the entire chain from soil testing, soil management, quality seeds, best husbandry, to marketing. Mr Moran said the partnership will include making farming attractive to the youth through embracing modern farming technologies, as well as addressing post-harvest losses. The programme will run until 2021. About 800,000 small-holding farmers across Kenya grow potatoes, employing 2.7 million people along the market chain, and contribute over Sh50 billion to the Kenyan economy. More

Nab the Scab: South African specialist’s views on how to deal with a nasty potato disease

Jacquie vanderWaalsPowdery scab of potatoes is a serious disease that is a thorn in the side of many a potato grower around the world. This is also the case in South Africa, one of the biggest potato producing countries on the African continent. In a recent article published on the website of the Afrikaans language agriculture magazine Landbou Weekblad, the views of a respected South African potato specialist on powdery scab are shared. Prof Jacquie van der Waals is Assistant Professor, Plant and Soil Sciences in the section Plant Pathology at the University of Pretoria. She says in an interview that powdery scab is indeed a disease that is very hard to control, and growers are advised to look not only at one possible solution to combat the problem, but use a range of integrated measurements at any one moment in time to deal with it. Jacquie is the founder and lead of the potato pathology project at the University of Pretoria and a seasoned potato researcher. She points to no less than 11 measures that potato growers can employ as part of an integrated control strategy to manage powdery scab.  Continue reading

New seed potato markets in Africa for the UK

Horticulture crops in RwandaRwanda and Uganda have been identified as two potential new export destinations for UK seed potatoes. After recent successful trials of GB seed in Kenya, levy body AHDB was invited to visit Rwanda as part of a UK Government trade initiative, during which AHDB’s head of crops trade Rob Burns met with the heads of Rwanda and Uganda’s plant health authorities. “We discussed the opportunity to improve potato yields in both Rwanda and Uganda through high quality, high health GB seed,” he explained. “Potatoes are a popular crop in both countries, but yields are just 20 tonnes per hectare and we know from our Kenyan trials that importing GB seed potatoes could see yields more than double.” Mr Burns said: “Exporting seed potatoes could help as essentially you are giving them the tools to improve their output, rather than simply selling them food products. They can use the seed to grow their own potatoes, which they can then sell on the domestic market or export elsewhere in Africa.” More

British seed potatoes impress in Kenyan trials

Four British seed potatoes have yielded well on three Kenyan trials sites, creating potential for a new export market. AHDB and SASA have been working together to open the Kenyan market to British seed since a bilateral agreement was signed by the Scottish and Kenyan governments late in 2016. Of the four varieties involved in the trial, Cara performed best with average yields across three farms of over 50t/ha (20t/acre). Hermes and Russet Burbank also grew well with an average yield of 41 t/ha (17t/acre), while Atlantic yielded a respectable 35t/ha (14t/acre). The yields achieved in Kenya closely mirror average yields in Britain, however most farmers in Kenya are used to yields of around 10t/ha (4t/acre) as 95 per cent of farmers use poor quality home-saved seed rather than high quality imported seed. More

‘Rooted apical cuttings’: Promising technology with potential to boost quality potato seed production

Seed potato farmers in Kenya’s potato growing regions are adopting promising technology with potential to boost quality seed availability. The farmers are using rooted apical cuttings as starter material for seed production as opposed to certified seed. The cuttings technology has been introduced in Kenya by the International Potato Center (CIP) under a programme funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). A cutting is similar to a nursery-grown seedling, except that it is produced through vegetative means and does not originate from a seed. Cuttings are produced from tissue culture plantlets in the screen house, rather than minitubers, and after rooting, are planted in the field. Each cutting produces 7 to 10, and up to 15+ tubers which are multiplied a further season or two, then the harvest is used and/or sold as seed. This means that the seed that farmers buy is equivalent to basic or ‘certified one’ seed in seed certification systems, and will produce high yielding crops. Currently the technology targets seed multipliers, but expanding to ware farmers. Continue reading

Newly introduced potato varieties set for success in Tanzania

Tanzania has excelled in experimental trials of high yielding and disease resistant potato varieties under a Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) programme of the FAO aimed to improve food security in the country. Three of 14 varieties brought into the country by the International Potato Centre (CIP) for field trials did well and two of them will soon be released. Two of these are Unica, locally known as Mkanano (and known as ‘Qingshu 9’ in China); and Shangii, which will be released to farmers for cultivation after proving resilience to climate vagaries. The third variety, Mvono, is now with the Tanzania Official Seed Certification Institute for national performance trials. “Mvono is being tested for the first time in the world. Its first field trials are taking place in Tanzania”, said Dr Stephano Sebastian, the principal agricultural research officer with HORTI-Tengeru. Experimental trials and promotion of potato is one of the projects implemented within the East African region under the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) research programme on climate change, agriculture and food security. More

Scottish seed potatoes said to flourish in Kenyan heat

Scottish seed potatoes sent to Kenya have performed strongly on three trial sites, AHDB has revealed. The farm levy organisation has been working with Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) to open the Kenyan market for GB seed potatoes since a bilateral agreement was signed by the Scottish and Kenyan governments in 2016. Well-known British varieties were exported to Kenya and planted on three different farms to assess the yield and quality of each. Cara had the strongest performance with average yields across all three farms at more than 20 tonnes per acre. AHDB said the yields were similar to those achieved in Britain, but much higher than those normally achieved by farmers in Kenya who typically experience yields of around 4tonnes per acre. This is blamed on the fact that 95% of farmers in the country use poor quality home-saved seed, rather than high-quality imported seed. More

South African potato grower reaching out for help with serious disease problems

Image result for sandveld potatoesPowdery scab, common scab and potato leaf roll virus (PLRV) are serious potato diseases in many countries around the world, and South Africa is no exception. Monique Vlok is a potato grower in the so called Sandveld region in the southwestern part of South Africa, not far from Cape Town. In her area, many potato growers are dealing with an increasing incidence of potato leaf roll virus and powdery scab. “These diseases became more prevalent in our region over the past decade or so, and are nowadays of serious concern for many potato growers in South Africa, leading to serious crop losses and of course economic headaches in many cases,” she says. “Research is ongoing in South Africa as scientists, growers and other stakeholders attempt to find probable solutions, but at this point in time potato farmers are really struggling to deal with these diseases.” Vlok says she will appreciate it much if potato experts, growers or companies from other potato producing countries would kindly take the time to reach out to her to discuss and share possible solutions for these diseases that might work in their countries. Monique Vlok can be reached via email at