Sack potatoes viability questioned

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COMPANIES offering training on growing potatoes in sacks have flourished around the country, with most of them smiling all the way to the bank after charging between US$20 and US$50 per person for the one-day training course.
Flyers and adverts were all over the show as ‘trainers’ sought to lure many unsuspecting job seekers and entrepreneurs to ‘enhance’ their standards of living.
On average, harvesting of sack potatoes is done after three to four months and the project was seen as a quick-win by entrepreneurs who embarked on the business.
However, barely a year after the sack potato craze swept around the country, many farmers are already disillusioned after investing a lot of money, time and energy, but harvesting thorns.
One such person is Daisy Mubaiwa of Harare who invested in 5 000 sacks of potatoes.
Mubaiwa says she was under the tutelage of an experienced trainer, but failed to get the desired yield.
“I invested in 5 000 sacks and I was expecting a bumper harvest, but I only managed to recover the money that I used for the project without any profit,” she said.
Agro-Vision Zimbabwe Trust director and chief trainer, Tendai Chimanikire said his company was receiving many complaints regarding the poor harvest from the sack potatoes.
He said they would soon embark on a research in order to establish the real cause of the poor production.
“We have also been involved in training previously and many people are facing problems so we will carry out a research and compare potatoes grown in the soil and those grown in sacks to try and establish the cause of the loopholes,” said Chimanikire.
He said sack potatoes must be produced by those who do not have available land and encouraged those with farms to adopt traditional methods of growing potatoes.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Deputy Minister responsible for cropping, David Marapira, said Government was well aware of the complaints by the general public.
He said Government had advocated for the growth of potatoes in the soil since everyone was aware of the process.
“The programmes and training were not done by the ministry and we have always encouraged the traditional way of doing things,’ he said.
“Potatoes grown in soil are richer, have better yield and taste and generally, they have been tried and tested.
“As Government we have nothing to do with the individuals who are doing the training.
“We are not part of it.”
Marapira said the training and the promised bumper harvests could have been a marketing gimmick by the trainers so as to lure more customers.
One sack of potatoes is expected to produce at least eight to 10 kilogrammes (kg) and between 12 and 13 kg for those who are well versed in the project.
The method was adopted from the United States of America and Israel.
On average, currently a pocket of potatoes costs between US$8 and US$12 depending on the grade.

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