By Adedapo Adesanya
The federal government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has tasked research institutes, agencies and development partners in the sector to create solutions to the numerous challenges besetting the country’s potato value chain.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Sabo Nanono, gave this charge in his address during a workshop with potato value chain stakeholders in Osogbo, Osun State.
The event was on the adoption and utilisation of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) and he said new technologies and innovations should be developed to further improve production.
Mr Nanono, who was represented by the Director of the Federal Department of Agriculture, Mrs Karima Babangida, said that OFSP has both economic and health benefits to Nigerians.
He said, “It has come to the knowledge of the Ministry the immense Wealth and Health benefits in Potato production, especially Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) and as such the Ministry is willing to explore these opportunities within the Value Chain in furtherance to achieving food nutrition and security for our beloved country.
“The primary objective of convening this stakeholder workshop is to create a forum for the stakeholders/major actors in the Potato Value Chain to chart a way forward for the realization of the fullest potentials locked up in potato production, processing/utilization and marketing.”
Mr Nanono added that the potato value chain has been facing many challenges right from the seed system stage.
“Several challenges have been identified in the potato value chain; right from the seed system protocols to the marketing of the produce.
“The challenges are quite enormous, but however, not one that is insurmountable. Therefore, all hands must be on deck to achieving this feat. There is no formal seed system for Potato, and it’s been a major drawback in the development of the Value Chain in the country.
“In achieving the above, please be informed that the Ministry is willing to contribute to the development of the Potato Value Chain through its various Agencies and Research institutes with mandates on rendering technical support.
“The Ministry has quite a number of support services that farmers and processors can benefit from. Farm inputs such as; agro-chemicals, farm equipment and machinery) are available at subsidized rates at the Ministry.
“I want to use this medium to urge the various Research Institutes, Agencies and Development partners with mandates on the Potato to work assiduously in creating solutions to the numerous challenges besetting the Value Chain, as well as new technologies and innovations to further improve production,” the Minister stated.
The Minister, while informing the participants at the workshop held on Thursday, April 1, said that the Ministry had earlier convened two regional meetings on Sweet potato in the South-South, Calabar, Cross River State and North-East, Yola, Adamawa State.
He noted that a sensitization meeting would be held in three geopolitical zones of the country, that is the (North-West, North-Central and South-East) regions respectively before convening a National Stakeholders workshop in no distant future.
Mr Nanono charged the ADP’s and the various Potato Commodity Association/Farmers to embrace new innovations such as; the Farmers Business School (FBS); Cooperative Business School (CBS); and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to improve their all-round farming activities as a means to strengthen their capacity in production and marketing.
In his remarks, the Ministry’s state director, Engr. Atoyebi O. Sunday, said that asides from the wealth potentials of processing OFSP into various confectioneries such as Chin-chin, juice, biscuits, cake, flour, bread among others, its health benefits cannot be overemphasized.
Mr Sunday said that OFSP is known to have enough nutritional values to supply the vitamin A requirement for children between the ages of 6 months to five years, support pregnant and lactating mothers and also help boost the immune system of the elderly.
He said, “The purpose of this meeting is to provide solutions to many challenges facing the popularization and adoption of the OFSP among the Nigerian farmers and processors nationwide.
“With this, I believe the resolutions of this meeting will help the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to plan adequately for ways of supporting potato farmers and processors nationwide.
“In view of the above, it is expedient for all of us to make use of this opportunity to cross-fertilize ideas and offer suggestions that will help in changing the narratives of low adoption and utilization of OFSP in Nigeria and also based on the information and knowledge gathered from the workshops; become an advocate of OFSP in our various communities and states.”