EAST AFRICA – As part of an initiative to enhance regional trade in seed potatoes in Eastern Africa, the East African Community (EAC) has donated laboratory equipment to member states of the regional bloc.

According to the statement, the project aims to provide the necessary framework conditions for the growth of seed potato trade through assistance with the creation of regional strategies and action plans as well as the creation and harmonization of regional seed potato standards.

The laboratory equipment is anticipated to be a game changer in the seed potato trade among EAC member states, according to Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary General. 

This is especially true in terms of enhancing staff and laboratory technical and implementation capacity to successfully operationalize necessary sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and facilitate seed potato trade throughout the region.

Mathuki noted that the potato sub-sector is one of the region’s priority value chains ranked among the top 10 key staple crops for food and income security in the EAC member states of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda.

Despite efforts to improve variety research and introduction, seed production, and regional trade, he continued, less than 4% of farmers in the EAC region use quality seed potatoes, which results in low productivity and major bottlenecks.

“With this laboratory equipment, the region is expected to increase production, availability, efficiency, and reliability of certified and assured seed potato for production and trade in the region,” said Mathuki.

The Secretary-General thanked the Federal Republic of Germany and GIZ for providing EAC with the financial and technical assistance it needed to acquire the equipment.

The production of certified seed potatoes, according to Mr. Max Middeke, the Deputy Cluster Coordinator for GIZ/EAC, is still in its infancy in all EAC Partner States.

The EAC Partner States have acknowledged various phytosanitary regulations for seed potatoes as non-tariff trade obstacles.

According to Mr. Middeke, the private sector will need strong incentives to increase its investments in seed potato production if there is well-regulated commerce in seed potatoes among the East African countries.

“I want to thank and congratulate the EAC Secretariat and the different stakeholders of the national and regional platform for their achievements so far. 

“With the EAC Regional Seed Potato Strategy and Action Plan in place, the priorities and necessary actions for further developing the sector are clearly outlined,” said Mr. Middeke.

Since 2021, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been carrying out the project “Improvement of Regional Trade with Seed Potatoes in Eastern Africa,” which is sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The National Plant Protection Organizations were given a total of six stereo microscopes, six microscope cameras, and six monitors by the EAC Affairs Focal Points to aid in the harmonization of protocols for testing, inspection, and certification to boost confidence and trust between Partner States regulatory agencies.

In order to boost cross-border trade in potato seed and produce, it is envisaged that there will be greater trust and confidence between the national regulatory bodies.

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