The Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to ensuring that the country does not experience any food crisis post-COVID 19 pandemic.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Mustapha Baba Shehuri, stated this in his keynote address at the 1st International Potato Value Chain and other Root Crops Expo holding in Jos, the Plateau State capital.
According to him, the Ministry took some proactive measures to mitigate any adverse effect that might escalate the food crisis by rolling out the distribution of agro-input palliatives across the six geo-political zones of the country while several interventions for dry season farming are in the pipeline to make up for the losses suffered by farmers as a result of the recent floods in some parts of the country.
The Minister pointed out that it’s a known fact that Nigeria has a comparative advantage in the production of root and tuber crops, adding that in reality, the country leads in the production of yam, cassava and sweet potato in Africa, and presently the 7th highest producer of Irish potato.
He argued that with this type of initiative, the Ministry was on course to be among the top three world producers by 2025.
He also said the Ministry was also aware of the huge investment opportunities that exist within the Irish potato value chain.
According to him, even though there are some challenges such as poor seed, disease infestation (late blight), inadequate storage facilities, and mechanisation among others, that must be addressed not only at the Federal level but also at the State level.
Shehuri also added that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is firmly committed to tackling these challenges and is committed to resources to this effect for the benefit of potato farmers in Nigeria.
The Minister further disclosed that some of the measures taken to tackle these 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.
Other measures he said includes a 10-ton cold storage facility is currently being built in the station, in addition, two (2) cottage factories have been constructed at Pankshin and Bokkos LGAs to support processors in the State to address post-harvest losses adding that all these have been done in recognition of Plateau State as the highest producer of Irish Potatoes in Nigeria and sub-Saharan Africa.
“As a matter of fact, the Plateau State Rural Economy revolve around Potatoes production. Recently the Federal Ministry and Rural Development procured some equipment to support production, these equipment have been made available for Potato Cooperatives/ Farmers at a highly subsidized rate. I, therefore, call on Potato Farmers across the Nation to take advantage of numerous supports available to boost production.”
Also in his address governor Simon Lalong who was represented by his deputy Prof. Sonny Tyoden said Plateau weather which is comparable to none in the country, gives them the comparative advantage of producing 95% of solanum potato consumed in this country.
According to him, the event focusing on potato, one of the most prominent crops that Plateau State is known for at home and abroad, speaks volumes of the State determination to make agriculture the mainstay of their economy.
The Governor also disclosed that to witness another agricultural activity back-to-back involving the participation of the Federal Government within a short span is, without doubt, a strong statement that validates the State Government push for more agro-related activities.