Currently, the potato value chain in Zimbabwe is inefficient and fragmented, which is an outcome of weak market linkages, poor smallholder organization, lack of infrastructural components, and lack of access to the pricing estimates.
Current constraints in potato production:
Ultimately, these constraints lead to sub-optimal productivity and low incomes for smallholder potato farmers who are unable to produce enough output at high enough quality for consumption in the wholesale markets or for processing into higher value-added products.
Specifically, the following challenges have a detrimental impact on smallholder farmers’ incomes in terms of productivity yield:
The limited supply of and access to high quality and affordable planting material (of potato seed tubers) /or to certain varieties that produce higher yields or are desirable in processed form.
Lack of an organized seed distribution system for example unaware farmers purchasing seed in markets such as Mbare. Fragmentation due to lack of organization at the smallholder potato farmer level inhibits farmers from accessing production inputs (which are too costly for the individual farmer) and other benefits (e.g. extension and training services, which better organization facilitates). Production is dominated by small-scale, subsistence farmers; farm sizes are small,
Little use of inputs such as fertilizer or chemical pesticides that would improve production and productivity – this is partially linked to the lack of knowledge mentioned above, but also due to the fact that good quality inputs are expensive for individual farmers as there are no economies of scale in distribution, which makes productivity and yield increase all the more important.
Lack of organization is partially responsible for the subsequent constraints in potato production. Lack of market information and premiums that would encourage commercialization. Lack of or little use of cooling storage systems, which help preserve potatoes for more than 2 months after harvest. Costly transportation from farm-gate to other stakeholders in the potato value chain.
Farmers’ production skills and knowledge are low. For example, farmers may be unaware of simple measures like the positive selection of seed material that could improve yield by at least 30%. They also tend to select the smallest potatoes as seed, creating a selection pressure toward small potatoes in future harvests. Another example is that too frequent irrigation leading to wet and heavy soils can actually reduce yields due to lack of proper soil aeration.