Most farmers in Zimbabwe are shunning potato farming owing to lack of knowledge on the crop. Potato production has been a preserve of former commercial farmers in this now poverty-struck and trouble-torn dictatorship.
Seed Potato Co-operation general manager in Zimbabwe Cain Manzira was reported as saying his organisation had realised many farmers wanted to produce potatoes but lacked the technical expertise.
The co-operation has now formed a taskforce to develop farmer-to-farmer training whereby farmers in an area learn from a successful potato producer for free.
"We cannot rely on imports when we have land which is ideal for potato production. We have potato seed banks and a quarantine station in Nyanga and we produce good varieties of the crop," he said.
Another challenge, he said, was banks’ lack of confidence to invest in the crop.
"We have a problem of funding as there are few banks willing to sponsor potato production. The interest rates are high and the loans repayment period is 90 to 180 days when potatoes take six months before they go on the market," he said.
Nyanga potato farmer Vashetti Makoni said many communal farmers in her area were willing to grow potatoes but lacked skills and seed.
"The farmers have the zeal to produce potatoes but lack support in terms of inputs and knowledge. The communal farmers are willing to work for potato seed and fertilisers so that they can produce the crop," she said.
Goromonzi potato producer Kingston Kajese usually produces 20 tonnes per hectare said he relied on local seed.
"Our local certified seed is free from diseases but some farmers rely on imported seed which may be susceptible to nematodes," he said.
Kajese said potato was a viable crop, which required adequate knowledge.
"Potato production is like golf. One should have the correct equipment. Potato production requires great care and commitment from the time it is seed to the period when it is planted," he said.