The Permanent Secretary, Plateau State Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Elias Pede said potato blight disease has posed a very serious challenge to the success of potato production in the state resulting to more than 50 percent loss in severe situations.He made the disclosure during a sensitisation workshop for potato farmers in Jos, the state capital.
According to him, continuous research using more blight tolerant varieties has enhanced increased yield recently, because more farmers have adopted varieties that are more tolerant to blight disease.
Pede added that the realisation of this dream is premised on massive production and marketing of pre-qualified and selected product in target markets.
He pointed out that potatoes are highly priced globally, especially in none producing countries, saying Plateau state government in collaboration with AFDB was able to create an enabling environment for the state to key into the potato value chain support project, being an off shoot of Fadama 11 project implemented from 2004 to 2013.
The permanent secretary further commended the National Root and Crop Research Institute, NRCRI, Karu, for the great research work it is doing on potatoes to address issues relating to its production, pests and disease management and storage.
He disclosed that the state government is also involved in the reduction of cost of production for farmers through subsidies on agricultural inputs such as assorted fertilisers and tractorisation, all in the effort to enhance production and yield of Irish potatoes in the state .
The north central zonal coordinator of Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, Mr. Christian Elekwa said the workshop was designed to enlighten stakeholders on the huge and untapped endowment of Plateau state in the area of Irish potatoes with critical stakeholders to develop sustainable models to drive a profitable export of the produce.
According to him, it is the continued efforts of NEPC to improve the production and quality of Nigerian agro products that the council has embarked on a number of strategic programmes to encourage global best practices in the agricultural sector.
He said one of such initiatives is the organisation of capacity building programmes aimed at stepping up efficiency and in calculating standardisation in agro production process.
He disclosed that Nigeria features among the major producers of white Irish potatoes with 80 percent production coming from Plateau, adding that for Nigeria to be a significant player in the international potatoes market the challenges facing Irish potato farmers and other stakeholders among which are produce quality, storage, handling and packaging must be professionally addressed to pave way for sustainable and profitable export trade activities on the product and its derivatives.