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    Kenya is betting on new varieties of potatoes to boost production and meet surging demand for fast foods by an expanding middle class.

    Under a bilateral deal with lead potato seed producer the Netherlands, the government has cleared four new potato seed varieties for use by local farmers.

    Forty other varieties are still undergoing trials by the Kenya Plant Inspectorate Service (Kephis), officials said during an international workshop on seed potato supply systems that kicked off in Nairobi last week.

    The deal with the Netherlands allows private seed companies to import certified potato seeds for sale in the local market.

    “This agreement is based on the premise that the Netherlands is the world leader in potato seed production and has elite varieties that could easily adapt to Kenyan conditions,” said Agriculture Principal Secretary Sicily Kariuki.

    The two-week workshop on seed potato supply systems in sub-Saharan Africa has delegates from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

    In Kenya, the potato is the second most important food crop, after maize, with the country being ranked as sub-Saharan Africa’s fifth biggest producer of the tuber.

    The country produced 5.6 million tonnes of potatoes last year, a 90 per cent increase over the 2.4 million tonnes harvested in 2011.