The Value Chain Analyses of Potato

This is a summary and overview of the value chain analyses for potato conducted by Agro- BIG:

Ethiopia has a very high potential for potato production as its 70% arable land or more than 6 million hectares is located in the mid and high altitudes, which is suitable for potato production. Close to half of the country‘s current potato production comes from Amhara Region.

Potato is an important food security and a hunger reliever crop in Amhara Region and in several other parts of the country by virtue of its ability to mature earlier than most other crops, in particular as compared to the main grain staples, at the time of critical food need, mainly from September until November. During these months, late blight prevented the production of potato. However, with the availability of late blight resistant varieties in the highlands potato can now be grown during the long rainy season. This not only has the potential to eliminate the September–November period of food shortage, it has provided potato producers an income from the sale of ware potatoes during this period (FAO potato VC manual, p. 48).

Furthermore, potato has a wide flexibility in terms of the time of planting and harvesting, and can be harvested and consumed before the crop is fully mature. In addition, potato can be planted in various multiple cropping systems because their short and highly flexible vegetative cycle fits well into that. The grow cycle of potato is relatively short, around 100 days, depending on the variety and the local climate conditions.

In addition, potato produces more food per unit area than any of the other major food crops. This is illustrated by the fact that potato accounts for approximately 3.5% of the area devoted to the world’s four main food crops, but contributes some 14% of the share of food production. The production of dry matter and protein from potato is significantly higher than other food crops such as wheat, rice and maize. From a food security point of view it is important that potatoes produce more nutritious food more quickly, on less land and in harsher climates than most other major crops. Up to 85% of the plant is edible human food, compared with around 50% for cereals (FAO potato VC manual).

Market opportunities are emerging for potato as a popular source of affordable food for growing urban populations. Finally, potato is not prone to speculative commodities trading on global markets; instead, prices are more likely set by local supply-and-demand conditions. Yet, potato has long been regarded as a subsistence crop and is still one of the underexploited food crops with a huge unrealized potential to improve food security, income and human nutrition (source: EIAR report).

Also in Ethiopia, there is a growing interest in the potato crop by private investors and policy makers. Cultivation of potato is rapidly expanding to irrigable areas. For instance, in Koga irrigation project, out of the total 5,060 ha of land covered by different crops, 2042 ha (41%) is entirely covered by potatoes and a total production of around 40,000 tons of potato’s is expected (source: EIAR and ARARI, 2013, “Seed Potato Tuber Production and Dissemination Experiences, Challenges and Prospects”, Proceedings of the National Workshop on Seed Potato Tuber Production and Dissemination, March 2012, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia ISBN: 978-99944-53-87-x).
Seed potato supply has, as yet, not been taken up by the seed companies and has thus overlooked in the formal seed system. Consequently, the informal seed system still reigns in much of the country. Due to the gap in seed quality control, the incidence of diseases as bacterial wilt and late blight has become serious and needs due attention. As quality control and certification is weak, farmers are not very interested in paying high(er) prices for seed potatoes because they cannot be sure that they are getting the genuine product.

National average yields of 8tonnes per hectare remain far below attainable yields which are as high as 45 tonnes per hectare for the improved potato varieties. At Amhara Regional level, average yields of 12–13 tonnes per hectare for rain-fed and up to 20 tonnes per hectare for land under irrigation have been reported (source: EIAR and ARARI, 2013, “Seed Potato Tuber Production and Dissemination Experiences, Challenges and Prospects”, Proceedings of the National Workshop on Seed Potato Tuber Production and Dissemination, 12-14 March 2012, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia ISBN: 978-99944-53-87-x).

Another constraint in the VC is that farmers are, for various reasons, not applying the recommended Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Furthermore, because of lack of adequate storage facilities, packing and processing facilities, post-harvest losses are significant (estimates by different sources/informants vary a lot). Some processing has been started up but still at a limited scale and it still has to be seen whether consumers are interested in buying the processed products.

As for most of the agricultural value chains, women do participate in the cultivation but are much less involved in decision-making and sale (except for some retailing).

Potentially potato can generate more employment in the farm economy than other crops and serve as a source of cash income for low-income farm households through access to higher value markets along the potato value chain.

Overview of strategic intervention areas and possible actions

Based on the findings regarding the current situation, the identified bottlenecks and opportunities, some key strategic intervention areas have been formulated as presented in the table below.

Strategic Intervention Areas

Actions

1. Provide better seeds and improve the supply chain

  • Strengthen seed potato supply system, (timeliness, quality, and sustainability);
  • Promote cooperation between research institutes and (potential) seed potato producers /multipliers
  • Analyse possibilities for seed potato certification
  • Facilitate introduction / implementation of seed potato certification
  • Quality seed potato supply through organizing seed grower groups, especially through creating linkages with seed potato growers in the highland areas of Western Amhara Region such as Gayint and Sekela Woredas.
  • Strengthening of potato Tissue Culture (TC) laboratory at ARARI i.e. providing necessary laboratory equipment and materials, creating linkages between TC lab and ASE, engage farmers as out growers, projection of certified potato seed, and develop market strategy for Amharic Seed Enterprise (ASE);
  • Facilitate the development of location based potato quality control mechanisms with emphasis on seed potato quality;
  • Promote quality and standard based pricing of seed and ware potato.

2. Strengthen farmers and extension services with regard to potato agronomy

  • Strengthening knowledge and skill on potato extension package;
  • Potato extension package manual, and guidelines;
  • Provide skill trainings on potato agronomic practices to woreda SMS, DAs, and farmers;
  • Organize demonstration plots;
  • Promote intercropping
  • Promote use of crop residues as livestock feed and manure (instead as fuel)
  • Promotion of integrated, locally tailored solutions;
  • Promotion of required enablers (for example, robust, simple soil diagnostic tools);
  • Establihsment of adequate linkage between research institutes on the one hand and farmers, DAs etc. on the other hand in order to promote adaptation and adoption of farming practices by smallholder farmers ;
  • Strengthen FTCs through supplying minimum / basic equipment and furniture;
  • Organize field days, and experience exchange, etc.
  • Establish knowledge centre at woreda level, avail reference materials that can serve DAs and woreda SMS;
  • Strengthen home economics (kebele and farm household levels);
  • Facilitate access to credit for input procurement and distribution, working capital, etc.;
  • Encourage an improved responsiveness of fertilizer and chemical input suppliers;
  • Awareness creation on economic importance of potato as high value crop.

3. Strengthen management and accounting at the cooperatives

  • Provision of skill trainings;
  • Strengthen farmers organization and management:
  • Technical and material support to primary and Koga irrigation union coops, (training on coop management, storage management, accounting, marketing, etc.).

4. Improve post-harvest treatment and access to markets, encourage construction of stores and processing facilities.

 

  • Improve post-harvest handling and awareness creation: it is estimated that post-harvest loss for potato is about 30-40%);
  • Skill training on storage management, sorting, grading, bagging;
  • Storage facility (both for seed –DLS- and ware potato);
  • Lobby for private food processing plants in processing potato (crisps/chips, French fries, starch)
  • Organize exchange visits to enhance ideas on processing;
  • Analyse possible public-private partnerships;
  • Facilitate market survey on consumer preferences / willingness and (monetary) capacity to buy ‘new’ processed potato products;
  • Support establishment/strengthening of organized (youth) groups who can potentially engage in potato processing with small and micro enterprise (SME) offices, especially in major towns like Bahir Dar, Dangila, Merawi to begin with. Support the access of organized groups to local materials such as potato choppers, peelers, etc.;
  • Bring topics to the attention of the Stakeholder Platforms;
  • Strengthen market information service delivery system;
  • Market price information collection, analysis and dissemination, market intelligence;
  • ICT support;
  • Strengthen market infrastructure and promotion: mapping and upgrade market sheds, clustering;
  • Dissemination of promotional materials;
  • Prepare market related training manuals.

5. Strengthen the overall functioning of the value chain and understanding and cooperation among the actors

  • Introduce VC concept at relevant levels: woreda bureaus, DAs, input suppliers, farmers (female and male).
  • Set up mechanisms like StakeHolder Platforms to build trust among farmers and traders and to facilitate improvement of supply of services, etc.;
  • Produce material and facilitate training for Stakeholder Platforms and other key actors in order to disseminate information and knowledge on VCD;
  • Promote sorting and grading by producers;
  • Radio broadcastings with relevant information for VC actors;
  • Publication of newsletter and special editions on specific topics;
  • Facilitate increase of adequate storage facilities (both for seed and ware potatoes);
  • Confirm that the transport capacity is sufficient (quantity, quality, reasonable price, also at peak harvest periods); if not, discuss possible solutions; also look at transport from field to collection point;
  • Increase knowledge among producers and traders of market trends and consumer needs;
  • Ensure that female farmers as well as youth are implicated in the activities to be undertaken and supported by the project
  • Finance gender analysis of potato VC;
  • Ensure attention for other cross-cutting issues like environment and gender;
  • Enhance gender equality / equity in general;
  • Finance study / analysis of environmental issues related to potato VC.

6. Improve marketing skills among potato and seeks ways of value addition
traders

  • Participation of traders in organised structures like SHP to come-up with win-win situations with farmers;
  • Specific training according to identified needs (TNA to be carried out).