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Zimbabwean farmers advised to take up potato production

Demand for potatoes has risen in Zimbabwe over the past decade and a report from USAID has urged more farmers to start producing the crop

The report from USAID's Smallholder Technology and Access to Markets Programme said that increased domestic potato production was needed to decrease imports and called for smallholder farmers to help meet the demand.

"It is estimated that the local market is operating at 50 per cent capacity, but it is difficult for new farmers to penetrate the potato market," Zimbabwe's The Herald quoted the report as saying.

The current cost of potato production is deterring many farmers from producing the crop, according to the report.

Producing potatoes costs between US$4,500 and $6,500 per hectare, which may prove too high for many small-scale farmers.

However, potato production also offers high returns, between $0.67 to $0.80 per kilogram, and the short production period can enable the rapid establishment of cropping programmes and enhance farm development.

"Traditionally, potatoes have been grown by large commercial farmers in Zimbabwe but more and more smallholder farmers are growing the crop," the report said.

Areas around Nyanga, Mutasa, Domboshava, Chiweshe, Wedza, Goromonzi and Mhondoro are currently producing significant quantities of potatoes, with an estimated 900 to 1,000 hectares dedicated to potato production every year.

Mbare is Harare's largest market for potatoes, according to the report, accounting for a third of the 350 to 400 tonnes that are traded per week.