From Gyang Bere, Jos

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, says that Nigeria has taken measures to be among the world’s top three producers of yam, cassava, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes.

Shehuri disclosed this on Thursday during 1st National Potato Value Chain and other root crops summit, held in Jos, Plateau State.

The minister reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to ensure the country does not experience food crisis during the post COVID-19 pandemic and said measures have been taken to mitigate any adverse effect that might escalate food crises.

‘It’s a known fact that Nigeria has 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, presently the 7th highest producer of Irish Potatoes production,’ he said.

‘With this type of initiatives, we are on the course to be among the top three (3) world producers by 2025. The Ministry is also aware of the huge investment opportunities that exists within the Irish Potato Value Chain.

‘However, there are some challenges such as poor seed, disease infestation (late blight), inadequate storage facilities, mechanization among others that must be addressed not only at Federal level but also at the state level. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is firmly committed to tackling these challenges and is committed resources to this effect for the benefit of potato farmers in Nigeria.’

He explained that some of the measures taken to tackle the myriad of challenges include the establishment of Tissue Culture Centre at the National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) Sub-station Jos, Plateau State 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 is currently being built in the station.

He said these have been done in recognition of Plateau State as the highest producer of Irish Potatoes in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.

Shehuri recognised the effort of other potatoes producing states such as Adamawa, Kano, Kaduna, Cross River, Bauchi, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi, Nasarawa and Sokoto, and said the states are leading producers with good and suitable climate.

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Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong, who was represented by the Deputy Governor, Prof Sonni Tyoden, said the weather of the state is comparable to non in the country which gives them comparative advantage of producing 95% of solanum potato consumed in this country.

‘As for pototo, we are second to none in Nigeria and have a high reputation for production of the crop in large quantities. This international conference is indeed holding at a time when we have put our best foot forward in consolidating our position as far as potato is concerned in Nigeria. Jos Potato has come to stay and we will drive it to higher heights.

‘It is our hope that after this conference the story of Jos potato and other root and tuber crops will never be the same again. We are determined to enhance potato production using modern technologies and also building the capacity of our farmers to adopt modern methods in production, storage, marketing and processing.’

Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Dr Hosea Finanwail said Governor Simon Lalong’s administration has deliberately placed agriculture as a key sector in the economy of the state.

‘Our mission as a ministry is to create and facilitate the development of Vvalue-addeq agricultural businesses thereby creating jobs, Increased Income for farmers, Making food available and improving the Internally Generated Revenue of the state.

‘To achieve these mandate and objectives; we have hired and deployed 400 trained Extension Workers across the 17 LGAs of the state as directed by his excellency our amiable governor.

‘In line with the value chain concept, where value addition is key, The ministry has facilitated tripartite agreement with wheat off-takers, the Central Bank and land owners to boost wheat production. To achieve our 2021/2022 target of 10,000 hectares of wheat production a Wheat Production Committee has just
been put in place.

‘The choice of our state as major Wheat producer for the country is as result of success recorded by the research trials carried out by the Lake Chad Research Institute here in Plateau State.

‘Also, under the Potato Value Chain Project, an adaptability trial for Solanum potato production has positively shown that additional 8 more LGAs from the initial 9 can now also successfully farm solanum potato. Hence, the need for this conference cannot be overemphasized. Because in the next few years Plateau State will be conspicuous on the global map of solanum potato producers.’