There is a growing demand for Irish potatoes globally and especially in Africa. With a growing number of Tanzanian smallholder farmers taking a keen interest in cultivating the crop, the future of the Ihemi Cluster Potato Value chain growth is very promising.
This was further bolstered on 31st May 2017, when the Governments of Tanzania and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, signed a joint agreement to construct a Potato Centre of Excellence for the development of Irish potatoes in Tanzania in Mbeya later this year.
The Netherlands is presumed to be the world leader in the potato sector, with Dutch seed potatoes accounting for 60% of worldwide potato production. While over 500 different varieties of potato are grown in The Netherlands, Tanzania seeks to grow a higher number of varieties beyond its current four varieties courtesy of the expertise that will be shared at this centre.
This USD 4 Million centre is co-financed by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and a group of nine companies that are active in the potato industry. This centre will bolster the entire potato value chain from production, processing and marketing of the crop.
The Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary, Mathew Mtigumwe, was very optimistic at the signing of this agreement stating,
“In southern Tanzania, there is very little commercial potato growth, but it will soon rise. This Centre can have a great impact on research and training. With this great initiative, the potato business can finally take off.”
Tanzanian farmers often harvest between 7 and 8 tonnes per hectare, well below the 30 tonnes which can now be actualized with better quality seed potatoes available and improved farm practices courtesy of the support of partners of this centre.
“This is an example of the new Dutch approach: business development instead of aid, it is a win-win situation.” Frank Wijnands, Wageningen University & Research and Project manager of the new Centre concluded.