Potatoes are a staple crop in Kenya, and their demand is high. However, not all potatoes are created equal. To ensure the best yields and quality potatoes, farmers need certified seed potatoes. This is where a profitable potato seed selling business comes in. In this article, we will explore the steps to start a profitable potato seed selling business in Kenya.
Step 1: Registration
The first step is to register as a seed merchant with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS). This process involves filling out the Seed Merchant Registration Form (SR1) on the KEPHIS website and submitting it along with the registration fee of Ksh75,000. Alternatively, you can register as an out-grower of a registered seed merchant for a fee of Ksh500. It is important to note that there is an annual renewal fee of Ksh10,000 for seed merchants and Ksh300 for out-growers.
Step 2: Preparation for planting
Before planting, it is important to conduct soil testing to test for Bacterial Wilt and Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN). KEPHIS provides this service for a fee of Ksh3,000 for Bacterial Wilt testing and Ksh1,000 for PCN testing. It is also important to identify the source of basic seed. Out-growers are advised to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a seed merchant for the assurance of getting the quantity of basic seeds they want. Finally, ensure isolation distance between the seed crop and other potato crops to meet KEPHIS standards.
Step 3: Inspection
After planting, apply for field inspection by filling in the Seed Regulation Form (serialized booklet issued by KEPHIS) and submitting it to KEPHIS not more than 30 days after planting. The following details are captured in the booklet: the acreage planted, the history of the land where the seed has been planted, the class and origin/source of the seed used, date planted, approximate date of harvesting, species and variety. A minimum of 2 field inspections are done by KEPHIS to ensure compliance with certification standards.
Step 4: Pre-harvest inspection
After dehaulming, KEPHIS takes a sample of tubers (400 tubers per Ha) to test for Bacterial Wilt. If Bacterial Wilt is absent from the sample, then the seed multiplier is allowed to harvest and grade their seed. For seed fields less than 0.5 ha, a sample representing 1% of the total plant population is taken. Testing for Bacterial Wilt involves taking a sample from each variety (if you grow more than 1 variety) and from each seed field if your seed fields are scattered.
Step 5: Post-harvest inspection
Lot inspection is done to ensure that grading has been done properly as per the two recommended sizes (Size I i.e. 28 to 45 mm and Size II – 45 to 60 mm) and that no damaged potatoes or diseased tubers have been included. If grading has been done properly then the seed multiplier applies for the number of labels needed. The label specifies potato variety, seed size, net weight, seed generation, lot number, date of sealing, and region grown. The label cost Ksh15 per label at a minimum cost of Ksh990. Sealing and labeling is the final stage done by KEPHIS, and the seed merchant is now free to sell their certified seeds.
Step 6: Knowledge and Facilities
To run a successful potato seed selling business, one must have adequate knowledge in potato production, sorting, grading, and storage facilities approved by KEPHIS. The seed grower should have a deep understanding of the potato production process and should be able to adhere to the guidelines set by KEPHIS for certification. This includes following the recommended isolation distances between seed crops and other potato crops to prevent the spread of diseases and pests.
Additionally, the seed grower should have proper sorting and grading facilities to ensure that only high-quality seed potatoes are sold. This involves sorting the potatoes according to size, shape, and quality to ensure that they meet the standards set by KEPHIS for certification. It is important to note that the quality of the seed potatoes will determine the yield and quality of the final potato crop, so it is essential to invest in proper sorting and grading facilities.
Proper storage facilities are also crucial to maintaining the quality of the seed potatoes. The storage area should be cool and dry, with good ventilation to prevent moisture buildup that can lead to rot and decay. It is recommended that the seed potatoes be stored at a temperature between 2°C and 4°C to prevent sprouting and ensure that they remain dormant until planting.
Step 7: Marketing and Sales
Marketing and sales are essential to the success of any business, and the potato seed selling business is no exception. There are several ways to market and sell potato seed in Kenya, including:
- Direct Sales: The seed grower can sell their certified seed potatoes directly to farmers and other buyers. This can be done through local markets, farm visits, or advertising through social media platforms or websites.
- Online Marketplaces: Online marketplaces such as Jiji, Makimara etc offer a platform for seed growers to sell their certified seed potatoes to a wider audience. These platforms allow sellers to create listings for their products, providing details such as quantity, price, and location.
- Agricultural Shows and Exhibitions: Agricultural shows and exhibitions provide an opportunity for seed growers to showcase their certified seed potatoes to a wide audience of potential buyers. This can be an effective way to market and sell seed potatoes, as it allows growers to interact with potential buyers and answer any questions they may have about the product.
- Agrovets: Agrovets usually have a huge link with farmers. You can sell or display your seeds in agrovets, who can then sell them to farmers and other buyers. This can be a convenient option for seed growers, as agrovets can provide access to a wider network of buyers.
Starting a profitable potato seed selling business in Kenya requires a significant investment of time, effort, and resources. However, by following the guidelines set by KEPHIS for seed production and certification, investing in proper facilities and equipment, and developing effective marketing and sales strategies, it is possible to build a successful business that meets the growing demand for certified seed potatoes in Kenya. With the right approach and dedication, potato seed selling can be a profitable and rewarding business venture.
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