How to make money producing Potato Seed in Kenya

Are you wondering if you can make money growing potato seeds for sale in Kenya?  Supplying the planting potato tubers is one of the most lucrative agribusiness ventures in Kenya given the some of its business opportunities such as high profits, huge demand and low competition.

On the other hand, there are a number of challenges that your potato seed propagation venture  can face. These risks include huge capital investment, limited research and high incidences of potato diseases likely to reduce your profits.

So, how can you start a profitable seed potato propagation business in Kenya successfully? This article will give you all the information you need to know about establishing a successful potato seed business. 

Facts about Potato Farming in Kenya

Potato farming in Kenya is one of the major crops in Kenya. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the value chain contributes over 50B to the economy. It supports over 800,000 potato farming households in the country. Furthermore, it employs around 2.7M people at different nodes of the value chain.

Related: How profitable is potato farming in Kenya?

Currently, there are 63 registered Potato seed varieties in Kenya. You can categorize them based on their use (table and processing), maturity period (early, medium, and late) and other features such as tolerance to pests and diseases.

The sector is dominated by small-scale farmers. They prefer to use informal seeds that are saved or borrowed from their neighbors. They consider certified seed as expensive, primarily due to a complex distribution systes. Further, certified seed uptake and penetration are at a maximum of 4% only. 

Even though these are challenges for farmers. In contrast, they present a huge business opportunity for you, if you can get all the basics right to succeed.

Potato Seed Systems in Kenya

Potato is a scheduled crop in Kenya, meaning its seed production passes through strict government quality checks. Other scheduled crops include maize, and beans, among others.

In Kenya, potatoes have two main seed types, formal and informal. The formal seed system is government controlled, meaning the potato seeds are pest and disease-free. 

The latter one involves farmers’ exchanges, and it is not allowed to happen at a commercial level due to the risk of pests and diseases.

However, there is a semi-formal system where agricultural extension officers and development partners help farmers produce better seeds, although it does not meet the formal threshold’s standard.

Nevertheless, it is better than the informal one because farmers get trained on disease prevention, selection, and other agronomic aspects. This seed is commonly known as a clean seed.

However, KEPHIS, the government-mandated agency, does not officially recognize it.

Types of Potato Seed in Kenya

Potato seeds in Kenya are classified according to the number of times it has been multiplied. A variety with low  multiplication is considered more quality, and vice versa.

Material typeSeed classGeneration
In-vitro plants,
mini tubers,
and healthy mother plants
Breeder seedG0 
Tubers Pre-basic G1
Tubers Basic G2
Tubers Certified 1G3
Tubers Certified 2G4
Tubers Certified 3G5

Advantages of Seed Potato Propagation Business

Is Potato seed produduction a good business? There are several advantages of starting a seed potato propagation business.

  • You can earn a good income or profits from this business.
  • Ability to multiply the seeds for another season and earn more
  • Irish Potato seed  propagation business will give you high income returns or profits
  • There is a high demand or a ready market for certified potato seed varieties 
  • There is low competition for your venture since there are a few potato seed companies or producers in Kenya
  • Short production cycle

Disadvantages of a Seed potato propagation Business

The primary disadvantage of starting a seed propagation business is the high capital required and high incidences of pests and diseases.

Diseases and pests can easily wipe out the crop or make your seed fail to meet the standard quality checks by KEPHIS, thus preventing you from selling.

Additionally, seed potato requires a unique distribution system which may make selling challenging, especially to remote or rural farmers.

Other challenges you are likely to face are;

  • There is Limited knowledge and research about the seed potato propagation business in Kenya. 
  • Costly licenses and fees to regulators such as KEPHIS and County governments.  and a unique distribution system, and you get a 
  • Limited market since the major portion of  potato farming in Kenya is subsistence

How to start a Potato Seed Production Business in Kenya

There are two ways you can grow Irish potato to harvest its tubers for sale as seed; merchant or out-grower production systems

  • As a merchant/seed company: This means getting the necessary certificates and permits from relevant government entities. This option is ideal if you have the necessary capital and technical know-how.
  • As an out-grower/ farmer:This entails contract farming under a registered merchant or producer. The outgrower system is perfect if you want knowledge and experience as you grow your expertise and financial muscle.

Costs of running a seed production business in Kenya

The following table is a summary of all the requirements you will need to start a seed production business in Kenya. It includes expenses for registering for licenses, soil testing, inspection among others. Certified seed production and distribution is regulated by the KEPHIS

Registration Ksh. 75,000Payable to KEPHIS and fill SRI form on KEPHIS websiteKsh. 500Payable to KEPHIS and fill SRI form on KEPHIS website
Annual fee Ksh. 10,000Payable to KEPHIS and fill SRI form on KEPHIS websiteKsh. 300Payable to KEPHIS and fill SRI form on KEPHIS website
Soil testing (Bacterial Wilt) Ksh. 3,000Apply and pay to KEPHIS Ksh. 3,000Apply and pay to KEPHIS 
Soil testing (PCN)Ksh. 1,000Apply and pay to KEPHISKsh. 1,000Apply and pay to KEPHIS
Source basic seedHave MOU with your seed merchant for quality purposes
InspectionApply for inspection not later than 30 days after planting

Charges are Ksh430 per hectare (Ha) and a minimum fee of Ksh1, 935 per seed field plus a mileage fee of Ksh 58.50 per km
Apply for inspection not late than 30 days after planting

Changes are Ksh430 per hectare (Ha) and a minimum fee of Ksh1, 935 per seed field plus a mileage fee of Ksh 58.50 per km
Pre-harvest inspectionBacterial wilt test. 400 tubers per Ha. If the field is less than 0.5ha, take 1% of the plant populationBacterial wilt test—400 tubers per Ha. If the area is less than 0.5ha, take 1% of the plant population
Post-harvest inspectionInspection, sorting, grading, labeling, and packagingLabel costs Ksh. 15 per label and at a minimum of Ksh. 990Inspection, sorting, grading, labeling, and packagingLabel costs Ksh. 15 per label and at a minimum of Ksh. 990

Where can you buy certified potato seeds in Kenya

Looking where to buy certified potato seeds in Kenya? There are about 28 registered seed potato producers according to NPCK’s 2021 potato catalog. The companies has specialized to produce and distribute different potato varieties and in various forms, such as potato tubers, potato cuttings or seedlings and mini-tubers. 

They include government-owned and private producers. Some producers are Agrico, Kisima, ADC Molo, KALRO Tigoni, Baraka Agricultural College, Egerton University, Kevian Seeds, Jancota, Suera Farms, and Taita Papa.

The number of producers keeps increasing, indicating a massive demand for certified potato seeds. Therefore, the market is vast and looks promising.

What is the Cost of Starting a Seed potato Propagation Business

The costs of starting a potato seed propagation business ranges from a few thousand if you have your land to thousands to millions. It all depends on the scale of operation, seed variety, type of seed, and material type you will be selling.

But regardless of where you start, going the entire production cycle guarantees more returns. This means rather than selling seeds at the second or third generation, you should sell them at the last multiplication cycle (G5).

Factors to Affecting the Success of potato seed farming in Kenya

To be successful in beginning a seed potato production business, consider the following factors.

Potato Variety

The Kenyan market is saturated with many potato varieties, with the dominant being Shangi and the markies potatoes However, some other types have big markets, but the seed is not readily available.

These are mainly the varieties used in processing of chips, crisps, potato flour among other products. Therefore, always research the variety’s demand before engaging in this business.

Additionally, some varieties are publicly owned, and others are privately owned. Most of the publicly owned ones can be produced by anyone, unlike the privately owned ones, which require you to have a permit from the breeder.

The scale of Operation

How large will you start? Answering this question will guide you, especially on the licenses required. 

The best route will depend on your financial muscle and technical skills. Potato production and especially the seed aspect are financially and technically heavy.

If you do not have these two, it is advisable to start as an outgrower and grow as you get skills and finances.

Area of Operation

With technological advancement, potatoes can now be produced virtually in every ecological zone. The latest county in Kenya is Taita Taveta, a predominantly hot area.

However, you must consider where you will be situated. If you do not have land, you have more options, but primarily, set up a base in a central region where farmers can easily access the seed.

Furthermore, you can opt to include a distribution mechanism as part of your business if you are in an outlying area.

Final Word on Starting a Seed Potato Propagation Business

Starting a seed potato propagation business in Kenya is profitable. But, like any other business, it requires patience, strategic thinking, and expertise.

Read Next; How to grow Irish potatoes in Kenya

Which is the best potato seed variety in Kenya?

And despite the numerous challenges of starting it, you can still make a decent income and grow to be among the biggest giants.

With this information, you are now better placed to start a potato seed propagation business in Kenya.

Post a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment

  • Very informative,and eye opening.

    18 December - 2022 at 03:02 PM
    Lyn Reply