Potatoes are Namibia’s favourite vegetable

Potato farming remains a challenge in Namibia, especially in terms of access to seed potatoes.

02 December 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

Potato is the most consumed horticultural produce in Namibia, with more than 33 000 tonnes traded through the formal market during the 2018/2019 financial year, of which more than 23 000 tonnes were imported from South Africa.

However, according to the Agronomic Board of Namibia (NAB), potato farming remains a challenge in Namibia, especially in terms of access to seed potatoes and value addition.

It said the availability and access to good quality seed potatoes remains the biggest challenge to Namibian potato producers as they have to order seeds in bulk and at least three months in advance, which has negatively affected local potato production.

“Moreover, potato breeding in Namibia is non-existent as seed potatoes are sourced from South Africa, which is a costly exercise.”

The NAB says that Namibian potato growers have especially expressed concern about the limited supply of seed potatoes from South Africa during the period of February to May each year, due to South African seed producing companies prioritising their local farmers first.

French connection

Therefore, in an attempt to facilitate the development of the potato value chain, the NAB collaborated with the University of Namibia (Unam) and some farmers in conducing on-farm trials to test new seed potato varieties obtained from the Comptoir du Plant company in France, through the Namibian embassy in France.

The aim was to assess the adaptability of six French potato varieties to the Namibian soil and climatic conditions, that can be used to close the gap in accessing quality and affordable seed potato varieties that are adaptable to Namibia's soil and climatic conditions.

Hence, on-farm trials were conducted on the six French potato varieties Barcelona, Montreal, Nicola, Rainbow, Sas and Spunta with three local varieties -Allison, Mondial, and Panamera being used at four different trial sites at Hochfeld, Doringboom, Guinas and Oshikoto farm.

Regarding the average yield, Mondial scored the highest (73 tonnes/ha), followed by Spunta (66 tonnes/ha), Rainbow and Allison both scored (62 tonnes/ha), and the lowest was Panamera (38 tonnes/ha). Spunta and Montreal recorded the highest number of large/medium and large potato sizes with greater than 50 mm in size, while Panamera recorded a lot more tubers that were smaller than 50 mm.

The NAB says it is worth recommending that the French potato varieties be considered for adoption by Namibian potato growers after the second trials, which are currently at harvesting stage.

“Access to these French seed potato varieties should be considered as a way to complement the existing local supply chain that is wholly dependent on South Africa. This is however pending on the results of the second seed potato trials that are currently being conducted in Namibia.”

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