RWANDA and Uganda have been identified as two potential new export destinations for UK seed potatoes.

After recent successful trials of GB seed in Kenya, levy body AHDB was invited to visit Rwanda as part of a UK Government trade initiative, during which AHDB's head of crops trade Rob Burns met with the heads of Rwanda and Uganda's plant health authorities.

“We discussed the opportunity to improve potato yields in both Rwanda and Uganda through high quality, high health GB seed,” he explained. “Potatoes are a popular crop in both countries, but yields are just 20 tonnes per hectare and we know from our Kenyan trials that importing GB seed potatoes could see yields more than double.”

Feeding more people on a finite area of land is a major concern in Africa as while population growth in the west has slowed, Africa’s population is still increasing. Today one in six people live in Africa but that figure will rise to one in four by 2050, and one in three by 2100, according to United Nations data.

Mr Burns said: “Exporting seed potatoes could help as essentially you are giving them the tools to improve their output, rather than simply selling them food products. They can use the seed to grow their own potatoes, which they can then sell on the domestic market or export elsewhere in Africa.”

Rob and his team will now build on these initial discussions by inviting Ugandan and Rwandan officials to visit growers and processers in Great Britain, so they can develop a better understanding of how the seed is grown and protected, and how that system could significantly boost the health and yields of their crop.

Rob says: “If discussions go well the next step would be working with the Scottish and UK Governments to negotiate a bilateral agreements between Great Britain and Rwanda and Uganda, similar to the recent one signed with Kenya. These agreements acknowledge each other’s plant health status and agree risks and controls for exports/imports."