Potato farming offers employment opportunities with good return if done on the right scale.
Potatoes, either Irish or the sweet variety, are a great food for many homes around the world. Many families fry, boil or roast them for consumption.
At present, the price of Irish potato is high, while its demand as well as that of sweet potato, continues to grow.
Benue, Kogi, Plateau, Taraba (Mambilla Plateau) and Borno grow sweet potatoes in large quantities. Other states where sweet potatoes can be grown include Zamfara, Bauchi, Katsina, Gombe, Sokoto, Jigawa, Kano and Kebbi, although mostly through irrigation.
And as for Irish potato, Plateau State ranks as the major producer because of its high altitude and thus cool climate which is favourable for the development of the crop. Other places with high altitude are Mambilla Plateau (Taraba State) and Obudu (Cross River State).
Experts also say Irish potato farming will do well during the harmattan when the North is generally cold.
A renowned potato farmer, Alhaji Adebisi Saula, noted that the crop can serve as a major source of foreign exchange when exported to other countries.
According to him, over 60,000 tons of Irish potato are exported annually, which often reduces the quantity that is available for local consumers, hence its high price in the market.
Best ways to start potato farming
Guiding interested farmers on the best ways to start potato farming, Alhaji Adebisi Saula, said growing Irish potato involves extensive ground preparation.
According to him, ground preparation involves clearing the farm and ploughing the soil.
He said farmers must harrow the soil until it is completely free of weed roots, adding that in some instances, the farmers need to plough at least three times, with a frequent harrowing and rolling before the soil reaches a suitable soft condition with adequate drainage.
At this stage, he said, farmers can incorporate fertiliser into the soil and also prepare seedbeds for the potato seeds.
The next stage, he said, is the choosing of the potato varieties you want to plant, adding that farmers must consider the disease resistance of the variety, the time it takes to reach maturity as well as the yield and the quality of the seeds.
He recommended BR63-18, Kondor, Famosa, Bertita and Mirabel as disease resistant, high yield varieties that are imported.
On when and how to plant the seed, the farmer noted that sweet potato is grown by planting stems from matured plants while Irish potato requires seed propagation.
According to him, potatoes should be planted in moist soil, devoid of waterlogging to avoid rotting of the seed.
The farmer warned that applying chemicals to control weeds in potato farms must be done with caution because the leaves of the crop are very sensitive to chemicals.
Hope rises for farmers as FG explores potato value chain
The federal government is to explore opportunities in the potato value chain to further achieve food nutrition and security in the country, an official said.
Hajiya Karima Babangida, the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, stated this at the Potato Value Chain Stakeholders’ Workshop on adoption and utilisation of OFSP in Osogbo, Osun State.
She said the ministry was willing to explore all the opportunities within the value chain toward achieving food nutrition and security for the country.
She said the primary objective of the workshop was to create a forum for the major actors in the potato value chain to chart a way forward for the realisation of the fullest potential locked up in potato production, processing, utilisation and marketing.
Hajiya Karima, who noted that there are identifiable challenges in the potato value chain, said efforts must be made to solve the issues.
“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 not insurmountable ones. All hands must be on deck to achieve this feat,” she said.
She also called on research institutes, agencies and development partners with mandates on the potato value chain to work assiduously in creating solutions to the numerous challenges besetting it, as well as new technologies and innovations to further improve production.