Belonging to the solanaceae family, potato also known botanically as solanum tuberosum has its roots traceable to Southern America. It is the third most popular food crop globally behind only rice (which comes first on that list) and wheat. Yearly, over three hundred metric tons are produced as more than a billion people consume this crop worldwide.
Though its origins can be traced to South America, it is now a global product with over four thousand varieties grown worldwide. China is currently the highest producer of the crop with Russia and India coming second and third in that order, the United States comes fourth.
In Africa, Egypt though fourteenth globally comes first in potato production Africa which is quite curious considering her climate and the climate of the other countries that it is ahead of in Africa. How is this so? Is there anything that other African countries can learn from her? This we would try to find out in this article.
Potato Origin In Egypt
Potatoes first came to Egypt sometime in the 1800’s but it was until the period of the first world war that large scale cultivation started. This was primarily because the British officials (Egypt was a colony of Britain at the time) encouraged its growth for the purpose of feeding their troops. After the war however, there was a slag in its production which could generally be blamed on farmer inexperience and the quality of seed being imported to Egypt at the time.
How Are Potatoes Grown In Egypt?
With the passage of time however, that has changed and the country has developed its farming systems. The advanced irrigation systems deployed in the Nile delta coupled with the importation of quality seeds have proven to be crucial catalysts to this development. Since the sixties when substantial increase in potato farming started, agricultural activities in general have also improved and are no longer limited to the Nile delta anymore; rather, it has spread even to the western desert which are now irrigated.
It also has to be noted that the western desert area is very vast and more areas are being developed for increased agricultural purposes. This can only lead to increase in agricultural yield in general and potato farming in particular. With the irrigated farms, potatoes are able to do well despite it being a dominantly sandy soil area.
Again, it has to be noted that agriculture plays a crucial role in Egypt’s economy thus, the government is generally invested in improving all things agriculture in the country.
Are There Any Challenges?
Yes, there are. The water quality of the Nile is quite poor and not suitable for quality farming. The poor quality of water also makes these irrigation grounds quite exposed to pest attacks which can affect the quality and quantity of their harvest. For these reasons, farmers have to work extra hard to ensure that their crops are protected in order to ensure quality and bountiful harvest.
What Have The Results Been Like?
Despite the various challenges that are still being faced in the country, Egypt is currently the number one potato exporter to the EU. This is quite an achievement worth mentioning considering the strong regulations that guide the export of such agricultural produce to Europe. It is quite a testimony to the quality of the potato Egypt grows.
Aside from exports, there is a healthy demand for potatoes in the local market so local consumption also ensures sales and profits for farmers. So generally, the practice is that the smaller potatoes are kept aside for export to Europe while the larger ones are for local consumption or export to Russia. This has ensured that farmers are able to make good profit from their work whether the product is exported or consumed locally.
It can be seen that Egypt is well committed to developing its farming systems in general so as to improve the quality and quantity of it’s yield. They have discovered the economic benefits that the country stands to make from these activities. Potato farming is one area that has been profoundly affected with plans already under way to improve the current methods being applied.
There is a huge government involvement in the agricultural activities in Egypt which has contributed to the country’s success. Thus, if the leaders of other African countries could step up their involvement in agriculture, Africa as a continent will achieve a whole lot in agriculture.