POTATO farmers yesterday cried foul over the high prices of potato seed and shortage of high-producing varieties on the local market.
by VENERANDA LANGA
Potato Growers’ Association chairperson Jacs Chiduku told members of the Parliamentary Thematic Committee on Indigenisation that potato production was capital-intensive, adding it costs $12 000 just to grow one hectare of potatoes.
Chiduku said lack of financial support to the sector had pushed most farmers out of potato production.
“Those farmers still growing potatoes only do half a hectare or a quarter of a hectare because it is a difficult business which also requires crop rotation. Potatoes can only be grown once every three years on the same piece of land,” he said.
Seed Potato Corporation general manager Musengo Hlongwane said local food producers preferred high-quality but expensive potato varieties only available in South Africa and Europe.
“Potato seed is difficult to grow because it requires very strict conditions in places such as Nyanga,” Hlongwane said.
Chairperson of the Potato Council, Ronald Museka, said potatoes from South Africa had flooded the local market because their selling price was half of what is produced locally.
Museka urged government to invest in production of seed and charge a levy on potato imports to protect local farmers.