Millions for emerging potato farmers

A boost of R3.3 million for Eastern Cape’s small farmers hopes to revive potato cultivation and simultaneously, the Kei Fresh produce market.

Farmers in South Africa’s former Transkei region aim to harvest approximately 400 tons of potatoes as part of a development program for which the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC) granted R3.3 million a year ago.

The first harvest season kicked off on 20 April in Mthatha at a farmer’s day where the ECDC, Potatoes SA (PSA) and the Kei Fresh produce Market (KFPM) participated.

An average yield of about 1500 10kg bags per ha over 26 ha is expected on a dry land production system.

The production cost for the tax payer for these potatoes amounts to R8.46/kg, more than double the current market price of potatoes.

However, this is an opportunity to give the KVPM a much-needed boost, said the ECDC’s Simphiwe Ntshweni.

Create a market

“The Kei Fresh Produce market creates an important market for producers and is possibly an important partner in this project. Furthermore, Potatoes South Africa is not only important from a production viewpoint, but also creates competition between their commercial counterparts.”

Melinkqubo Ndabokutya from KFPM is very excited about potato production so close to the market.

“Potatoes are by far the best seller on the market, but are imported from other regions. In an attempt to support local farmers, KVPM launched a farmer’s support unit that makes mechanisation available to farmers. We also have a laundry, scaling and packaging facility farmers can use on the premises.”

Over the last two years, the KFPM has shrunk from more than R26 million between 2014 and 2015, to R10 million in the current financial year. The main buyers at the market are smallholders and hawkers.

The EDCD expects at least 250 ha to be planted in the upcoming season in the O.R. Tambo district. Potatoes SA is the technical adviser of the project, which consists of seven different cooperatives and 61 members.

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