Can the sweetpotato Early Generation Seed business attract private players?

This is the first in a series of blogs for SeedSystem.org by scientists from the International Potato Center (CIP) and the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) discussing key issues in the sweetpotato seed system.

The sustainable production of Early Generation Seed (which includes pre-basic/foundation seed and basic seed) is one bottleneck to increasing the availability of new sweetpotato varieties for farmers. Only small quantities are needed and the unit production cost is high. Under which conditions is it profitable to produce sweetpotato Early Generation Seed, and who is best placed to do it?

Trailing of vines to increase multiplication rate. Kenya Plant Health Inspection Service (KEPHIS) sweetpotato pre-basic screen house. Credit: E. Ngundo/KEPHIS.

Srini Rajendran and Margaret McEwan, of CIP and RTB, are working with National Agricultural Research Institutes in 11 sub-Saharan African countries to determine the cost of producing sweetpotato Early Generation Seed. This data has provided the basis to conduct financial analysis as part of developing a sustainable business. Read more about determining the costs of Early Generation Seed for sweetpotato here.

Srini and Margaret discuss how we can improve our understanding of farmer demand for quality seed and improved varieties of sweetpotato:

Sweetpotato is a vegetatively reproduced crop, allowing the seed or planting material (vines) to be easily multiplied and recycled from season to season. This leads to an accumulation of diseases and pests causing yield reduction. Sweetpotato pre-basic seed is pathogen-tested and produced under screen house conditions to ensure quality. We know that the demand for quality pre-basic seed is dependent on the demand characteristics of different actors along the seed value chain to the end-user root producers. But understanding the demand for quality seed from male and female farmers is elusive.

When does a farmer become a recurrent buyer of quality seed? What are the implications for the sustainability and profitability of quality seed production at different steps in the seed value chain?

Readers are invited to provide insight in the comments section below.

This research was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB). Implementation was led by CIP. Funding support was provided by the SASHA2 project.

Read the original post and reader comments on the SeedSystems.org website.