IN late 2015, farmers within the potato value chain in the southern corridor were introduced to a new Irish potato seed variety by the SAGCOT Centre in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Most farmers like Benno Mgaya have attested to how this new variety has produced results - on the farm and in their everyday life. He has seen the potato value chain come to life in Njombe Region, from production to processing.
Mr Mgaya and his farmers association not only process their potatoes but also have a training model to train and up skill other potato farmers associations.
Mgaya remains optimistic on the positive results of value chains, remarking: “Njombe is transformed from potatoes, people are educating their children, building homes of 50m/- (22,000US dollars) and buying motorbikes from potato cultivation.”
Looking at the potato, the World Bank considers it to be a major staple crop, with global production reaching around 500 million metric tonnes. Although most of its production is usually for domestic consumption, a small share of less than 5 per cent that is traded results in a market of US$10- 15 billion annually.
Considering the economic benefits, it’s important to understand the different stages of the agriculture value chain and the need to add value to local crops in order to generate wealth for farmers and the country. There are three primary stages within the value chain process; production, processing/ manufacturing and access to markets/distribution.
In Tanzania, the agricultural sector is primarily involved in the production phase which includes raw food materials, such as crop and livestock commodities. This is followed by the processing/manufacturing stage which converts raw materials into either branded or unbranded food products.
These would be in the form of finished goods such as milk and sausages. Thereafter, produce is marketed to retailers and wholesalers for distribution and sale to consumers. When we walk across the supermarket aisles, most food products are within arm’s reach.
Many of us don’t think of how food reaches the supermarket shelf yet each product has its own story: from fresh milk or dried fruits packed in the most exquisite packaging, to fresh spices in colourful containers, they can all be traced from one source; the farm.
In East Africa, the population doubles every 25 years, meaning the average land size per household is continuously shrinking at rapid rates. Therefore, there is an increased importance and demand for crops that give more food, more nutrition and cash per unit of area and time.
For example, the increasing demand for potato products is a result from rapid changes in eating habits and increased urbanisation, fast food and tourism. According to the latest survey, 85 per cent of respondents in the region preferred chips to any other potato product.
In Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, 100 per cent of respondents preferred chips. Given the availability of high-yielding varieties with good processing quality, there is a high potential for smallholder farmers to access the growing preference for chips in national and regional markets.
The potato chips industry is still in its infancy with a huge growth potential as the processing of potatoes into chips adds value. The profitability of chip processing ranges from US$11 per 100 kg chips in Tanzania to US$126 per 100 kg chips in Rwanda.
Strengthening potato value chains has the potential to generate more income to all stakeholders, including the government.
As agricultural markets continue to become increasingly globalised, generating new consumption patterns and production and distribution systems, it opens up opportunities for value addition that Tanzania can benefit from through employment, wealth creation and improved livelihoods.