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M A Y J U N E 2 0 1 628 POTATO GROWER Seed Potatoes In South Africa by Willem Schrage In March the Specialized Section on Seed Potatoes of the United Nations Economic Commission on Europe UNECE held its meeting in South Africa. The group from 14 countries on four continents Europe Australia and New Zealand North America and Africa had the opportunity to visit large seed potato operations not too far from the diamond city of Kimberley. The invitation for this visit to South African seed potato growers was extended by the Potato Certification Service. It is a non-profit company contracted by the Independent Certification Council for Seed Potatoes in South Africa. The Council is appointed by the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries from which it has received its authori- ty. Potato Certification Service supplies the inspection and certification servic- es supporting the South African potato industry. Their objective is to ensure the availability of suitable quality seed. South Africa is a big country with seed potato producers in areas that are very different from each other. The UNECE group was introduced to seed potato inspectors. At one of the farms two supervisors showed what they were looking for in their shipping point inspection. The UNECE meeting itself was held in Kimberley because it was within driving distance of two success- ful seed potato producing coopera- tives Griekwaland-Wes Korporatief GWK in Douglas and Wesgrow in Christiana. Griekwaland-Wes Korporatief GWK has its headquarters in Douglas. There Mr. Andr Coetzee and Mr. Ruben Rens received the UNECE group. They indicat- ed that GWK wants to be a leader in the agricultural food chain. Their new approach was that FARMERS MAKE ROCKETS which is to say all of human activity can only happen when people are well fed. GWK is owned by bona fide farmers who buy a share to become shareholders. For potato production it has a mini tuber production facility seed potato production farms and a testing facility. It is THE SUPPLIER TO THE FOOD SUPPLIERS. It is an agri-business that helps participating stakeholders within the food supply. It is backed by established and new trade- marks. GWK provides farmers with inputs farm support channels for marketing and sustainability. They have many brands. They also repre- sent John Deere in the area. They are the biggest supplier of lamb. GWK receives tissue culture plantlets from Pretoria. Their mini tuber pro- duction is in tunnel houses in Douglas. The tour was conducted by the green- house manager Mr. Nico Du Toit who told the group that their first year field generations were grown at a distance where there was no other potato pro- duction. One of the GWK growers is Mr. Frank Lawrence who irrigates his potatoes through center pivot. A roguing crew walked through a field close by. The number of people in the roguing crew indicated to us that there is a larger workforce available in agriculture in South Africa than in the US. Since bacterial wilt has been found in the country a 4605 tuber field sample of each seed crop is tested for at Ralstonia solanacearum. Besides hav- ing disease tolerances in their regula- tions certification has also require- ments on eligibility of fields crop rota- tions isolation distances and volun- teer control. The lack of penetrating frost forces growers to leave time for volunteer control. Mr. Gideon Truter regional manager and Mr. Frank Osler technical manager of the Potato Certification Service were on hand dur- ing the visit to explain field inspection procedures and tuber sampling Frank Lawrence grows seed potatoes as a member of GWK.