If you are a farmer and looking at producing ware potato for fast-food chain companies like KFC, Café Javas and others like them, you may have to change the type of potato variety you are growing.
These food chain companies often deal in chips and crisps but have to import much of the potato from South Africa or Egypt.
This is mainly because the varieties produced in Uganda do not support industrial-level processing into crisps, and high-quality frozen chips.
Uganda mainly produces local varieties like Naropot 1,2,4,5, Kabale, Victoria, Rwanume among others, which normally have deep eyes which cannot easily be peeled by the machines.
According to Rogers Basirima, a business innovation specialist from the International Fertilizer Development Center, Ugandans need to grow suitable potato chip varieties for the industry in Uganda and finally sell the high-quality products in other countries.
“Food stores or industries use machines to peel the potatoes, when the potato has deep eyes it becomes difficult to remove them with the machine. There is also a lot of waste in trying to remove them,” Basirima says.
With the use of machines, potatoes are peeled, sliced and chopped to 1cm sizes before being fried. And this requires a certain shaped potato.
Although some few farmers are dealing in industrial varieties there is inadequacies in the supply of appropriate potato varieties.
“The Dutch varieties do not have deep eyes, so the machines can easily peel them. They can also be served as table potato,” Basirima says.
David Turyomwe from Kabale district, one of the areas known for growing potatoes, notes that seed for industrial varieties is still a challenge.
“I would love to engage in producing for industrial varieties, but there is no seed,” Turyomwe says.
Turyomwe produces local ware potato which he sells in Kabale and Kampala.
Much as there is still a gap in seed availability, IFDC through the Resilient Efficient Agribusiness Chains in Uganda (REACH-Uganda) project is supporting commercial farmers to produce Dutch varieties for industrial use.
With support from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherland, IFDC’s REACH project is partnering with three Ugandan farms to produce seed and ware potato of three varieties that will be accessible to farmers very soon.
The varieties are Markis for chips production, Taurus for crisps and Panamera which is for both chips and table potato.
Namakwaland Farm in Masaka district has embarked on registration process for the production of seed potato and commercialization of Markis and Taurus.
Whereas, New Bukumbi KAKIE farm in Fort Portal City and Clarke Farm in Kyarusozi, Kyenjojo district are dealing in Taurus and Panamera varieties.
According to Eric Nel, the operations manager at Namakwaland Farm, when seed production fully begins, locals will be fully involved as out growers so as to have increased production.
“The Irish variety is doing very well and we hope many people will embrace it. We want to make a different by helping people with good varieties that will bring them good money,” Nel says.
Hussien Kiyemba, the manager Namakwaland Farm, says they are already producing ware potato which they supply to supermakets in Uganda.
“At the moment we are supplying to Shoprite and other supermarkets. If Ugandans embrace these varieties, I don’t see why KFC should be importing potatoes from other countries,” Kiyemba says.
Hassim Kato, a production manager says potatoes take about four months to harvest and have very high yields when the right agronomics are employed.
“You will get good yields if you irrigate, use fertilizers and give good care to the plant. You must control diseases and pests,” Kato says.
At Namakwaland farm, the company has installed an irrigation system and is setting up a cold storage room, to ensure continuous production of seed potato and ware potato for the local and international market.
“We want to set up a small irrigation system for the community whom we have already selected to grow the seed. These will be a farm group,” says John Mugisha, from Namakwaland farm.
Two to three weeks before harvest, the crop should be dehaulmed stems of the crop removed. This allows the skin of tubers to harden to minimize bruising during harvesting and subsequent handling.
Bruised potato tubers are prone to rotting. He explains that there are many varieties which are good for machines that these big industries prefer.
Rapid urbanisation key for industrial varieties
The rapidly growing urbanisation and increase in population in urban areas is causing demand for processed potato.
“The feeding trends are changing. We are seeing more people going for fast foods like fries, crisps which is a big opportunity for farmers who want to produce these varieties,” Nel says.
He explains that the demand will be enormous not only in Uganda but also exportation.
Uganda’s potato market is characterized by a deficit in production making Uganda a net importer of potatoes.
IFDC is also working with Psalms Food Industries one of Uganda’s largest potato and food processors towards developing resilient and efficient potato agribusiness chains.
“The company produces crisps and requires a variety that can easily be peeled and cut by the machine,” Basirima says.
He explains that with such companies in place, farmers will benefit a lot since they will be sure of market.
“The products will be for the Ugandan market and for export. It will be a big opportunity for farmers,” Basirima says.
IFDC’s Chief of Party David Slane, says the REACH-Uganda project with an aim to improve farmers’ market engagement, strengthen household resilience.
Since 2016, the REACH project which focuses on rice and potato has been implemented in 20 districts in South West and Eastern Uganda.
Slane notes that the project has increased availability of agriculture support services for 40,000 farmers and businesses in the rice and potato value chains.
“Value addition is very important for the potato sector and we are working farmers supporting them to add value to their potato,” Slane says.
In Kabale the project has supported farmers establish crisps making businesses, enabled them access financial services and constructed roads.
Slane also explained access to quality agro-inputs and quality potato seed is critical for building farmers resilience.
“Access to quality seed and quality agro-inputs is very critical for farmers. We are partnering with NARO for quality seed production but also private sector like Greenpulse to help farmers access quality fertilizer,” Slane says.
He says 73 kilometres of roads were rehabilitated in eastern and southernwestern Uganda regions.
The project has contributed to developing a well-functioning market system and increased farmer’s resilience among others.
Kabale and Kisoro districts account for 60% of Uganda’s potato production.