The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Mustapha Shehuri, has solicited more financial support and opportunities to enhance production and processing as well as upscale the investment in the nation’s potato value chain sub-sector.
Speaking during the first international Potato Value Chain and Roots Summit, themed “Repositioning Potato and Root Crops Agribusiness in Plateau State; Issues, challenges and prospects” held in Jos, Plateau, Shehuri said the ministry would explore the opportunities and resources available to support subsequent initiatives to boost the production and processing of potato and other root crops.
“Nigeria has a comparative advantage in the production of root and tuber crops. In reality, the country leads in the production of yam, cassava and sweet potatoes in Africa and is presently the 7th highest producer of Irish Potato.
“The ministry is also aware of the huge investment opportunities that exist within the Irish Potato Value Chain. However, there are some challenges such as poor seed, disease infestation (late blight), inadequate storage facilities, mechanisation, among others, that must be addressed not only federally but at the states’ level.
“The ministry is firmly committed to tackling these challenges and will invest resources to this effect for the benefit of potato farmers in Nigeria,” he said.
Listing some of the measures taken to tackle these challenges, Shehuri said they include the establishment of Tissue Culture Centre at the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) sub-station in Jos, to solve the seed problems; a 20-hectare irrigated land which is also ongoing to support seed multiplication and a 10-tonne cold storage facility currently being constructed in the station, as well as two cottage factories in Pankshin and Bokkos LGAs to support processors in the state in addressing post-harvest losses.
“All these have been done in recognition of Plateau State as the highest producer of Irish Potato in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa. The rural economy of the state revolves around potato production. Recently, the ministry procured some equipment to support production. These equipment have been made available for potato cooperatives/ farmers at highly subsidized rates,” he said.
He urged potato farmers across the nation to take advantage of the numerous support systems available to boost production, improve processing and increase income.
In his remarks, the executive governor of Plateau State, Hon. Simon Lalong, represented by the deputy governor, Prof. Sonni Tyoden pointed out that the state remains second-to-none in the farming, production and processing of potatoes in Nigeria.
He expressed the hope that the conference will change the story of the production of potatoes and other root and tuber crops for good.
“We are determined to enhance potato production using modern technologies and building the capacity of our farmers to adopt modern methods in production, storage, marketing and processing,” he stated.
He called international and local investors to continuously partner with the state government towards achieving the objectives of private-public partnership arrangement in revolutionising the potato industry in the state.
A statement by the ministry’s director of information signed by a chief communication officer at the ministry, Ikemefuna Ezeaja, said the agriculture commissioner, Plateau State, Dr. Hosea Finangwai, in his welcome address, said that the summit would provide a platform for small-holder farmers to collaborate with stakeholders towards improving the livelihood of farmers by increasing production and income, especially for women and youths in the state.