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 varieties for farmers. Under which conditions is it profitable to produce sweetpotato EGS, and who is best placed to do it? Srini Rajendran and Margaret McEwan (International Potato Center and CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas) are determining the cost of producing sweetpotato EGS as part of developing a sustainable business.

Thanks to readers who commented on the second sweetpotato EGS blog about understanding effective marketing strategies. Commenters noted the possibility of linking informal sweetpotato vine producers to the formal sector. Today, Srini and Margaret discuss how public-private partnerships (PPP) can contribute to the long-term sustainability of EGS production.

The results from our financial analyses indicate that sweetpotato EGS business is a viable business and can generate revenue in the long-run. The National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARI) we work with are now grasping this business opportunity to generate income for their institutions. However, to date, seed companies have demonstrated limited interest in engaging in seed production for vegetatively propagated crops – with the notable exception of potato (solanum tuberosum). We would like to learn more about potential public-private partnerships for sweetpotato seed production.

The NARIs are often generously endowed with land and water resources. They may have under-utilized facilities, but they boast trained staff who are experts in their field (e.g. tissue culture micro-propagation and screenhouse production technologies). The mindset and business orientation of the private sector could contribute to reducing costs, streamlining production processes, and strengthening forward linkages through the seed and root value chain.

What are the different profit sharing models which could be tested? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using variants of contract farming for quality seed production? How might vertical integration of the whole sweetpotato value chain (through to processed products) encourage private investment in quality seed production? Readers are invited to provide insight in the comments section below.

Acknowledgement: 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.

Crop Bioscience Solutions CEO Wilfred Mushobozi understands that in order to be commercially successful he needs to grow his market by developing customer awareness not just about his quality seed, but also the crop. CBS has engaged in innovative marketing strategies – “brand orange” – with outreach to local schools to encourage production and consumption of orange-fleshed sweetpotato. CBS has also partnered with Tanzania Horticultural Association (TAHA) to supply contract farmers with quality planting material of varieties for the export market to the EU.  Vertical integration and appropriate partnering are options for fruitful PPPs. Credit: W. Mushobozi.