African Development Bank Targets Plateau’s Irish Potato for Export

 By Dangwam, Jos

The African Development Bank (AFDB) in it’s quest of harnessing the agricultural potentials of the African continent has situated one of it’s major Irish potato project in Plateau State.

The Potato Culture Laboratory Support Project is the first government owned Irish Potato project in Nigeria and West Africa located at Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State.

Plateau is well known in the production of Irish Potato amongst other things especially within the Northern and Central zone of the State.

The Potato Value Chain Project Coordinator in the State, Mr.Thomas Moupshin said the establishment of the projects in Plateau State is as a result of the successes recorded at the end of Fadama II project which distinguished the state as the best among the 6 States funded by African Development Bank(ADB).

In his words, “At the end of Fadama II project funded by the African Development Bank, our farmers commended that they got good services and will want the services to be extended to them.

“Having distinguished ourselves as the best among the 6 States funded by ADB, the Bank then deem it fit to use the remaining loan funds to Plateau State for Potato Value Chain Support Project and this is the only State in this project in Nigeria. All projects are multi-state, but Plateau is privileged because of our comparative advantage.

“In 2013, the Plateau State Government made commitments but there was outstanding balance of counterpart funding. The Bank insisted that Plateau must pay the remaining counterpart fund before benefiting from the project which was rescued by the current government.”

The Coodinator disclosed that the Potato projects has other components that covers the Northern part of the State where potatoes production is in abundant also. “The potato value chain project has 3 components, first is the infrastructure which has to do with 320 kilomiter roads that will allow farmers take inputs to the farm and can bring out their produced.

“There is the provision of irrigation facilities for the production of the potatoes all year round by constructing small earth dams, converter capture structures, water harvesting structures and washboards and tubewell.”

Moupshin reeled out the packages that come with the prohect, “We have 1000 water pumps for irrigations, we have 150 tubewells and washboards.

“The project has multiple strategy in addressing the production, we have 3 processing factories, we have 9 community markets, we have 9 deforcelize stores spread out in the potato producing area,” he stated.

The Coodinator said, “The tissue culture laboratory will handle main parts from stem to etics, from the axis to the roots are going to be taken and propagated in the culture laboratory, from there they are transferred to the screening house and then the green house after which will be conditioned in the green house before they are taken to the field.

“It is considered as the method of rapid propagation of seedlings and has the potentials of illiminating every weak seedling in 3 years. The seedlings will be disease resistance because they are inoculated in the culture room.”

He maintained that the poor production of potatoes in Plateau State over the years is been attributed to the “Over stayed of the seedlings for 10 to 15 years and  have degenerated. Their strength have gone down , their gens has gone down and they become accessible to diseases leading to low yield.

“Plateau State been the 90% producer of Irish potato and has the largest area of producing potato, other countries put together produced up to one quarter of Plateau State. Because their land area is not up to one quarter of Plateau State but have put mechanism in placed towards production, those countries produced 28 metric tones per hectare while ours is just 20 metric tones per hectare,” Moupshin expressed worried.

The Plateau State Governor, Barr. Simon Lalong while performing the foundation laying of the First Goverment Potatoe Tissue Laboratory in West Africa said the Potatoes Value Chain Support Project in Plateau State is one project that will leave a mark in the lives of the rural communities of Plateau and those going into agro-bussineses when completed particular.

Plateau State has advantage ahead of other states of the federation as a result of her clement and natural weather within the Northern and Central zone of the state acceptable for the production of Irish potatoes among other species of food crops or fruits alike in the entire country and African as a whole.

Lalong disclosed that “The African Development Bank (AFDB) granted a facility of about 3.38 million Dollars to the state government with a view to boosting the state’s great potentials in the mass production of Irish Potatoes for export.

“This was done under the auspices of the Potato Value Chain Support Project of the African Development Bank. And by this, it means that in no-distance-time the state will be exporting to other countries of the world not only Irish Potatoes but also its allied products from Potato Value Chain.”

The Governor laid some background information on the attainment of the project thus,  “The Potato Tissue Culture Laboratory is a project which the administration rescued from the verge of being taken away from the state to other states of the Federation on account of the failure of the immediate past administration to pay its counterpart fund to the tune of Fifty-Four Million Naira(N54,000,000.00).

“The project is anchored on the promotion of Agricultural Investment, Financing Agricultural Development and Research for Agricultural Innovation and Productivity, all tailored towards increase on sustainable basis of smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs engaged in production, processing, storage and marketing as well job creation.

“For instance, 60,000 jobs will be created out of which 50% are women with a view to ensuring food security.

“The construction of the Potato Seed Tissue Culture Laboratory in the state will therefore address the problem of low-yielding Potato varieties and provide good quality seed. The output of Potato production in the state had greatly reduced over the years due to the Potato blight disease and degenerated seeds.”

He charged relevant agencies responsible for the success of the infrastructure to give the project the maximum attention in ensuring that the state produced potatoes all year round and government will identified both local and foreign markets.

For him, “The dark moments of potato farmers in the state will soon be over if this project and it’s component come to reality.”

The First Government Potato Tissue Culture Laboratory in the state is to occupy 8 hectares of land donated free by a family for the establishment of the African Development Bank projects and the Governor has promised that the family are going to be given priority in terms of employment.

The Commissioner of Agriculture, Hon. Hosea Finangwai said “This Tissue Culture Laboratory is the first government  own infrastructure in the whole of Nigeria and West Africa as a whole.”

He disclosed that the 2019 rainfall prediction by NIMET has indicated early rainfalls with a severe draught period and the Ministry is working towards getting species of crops that will be resistant to draught.

In his words, “We are going to have early scisassion of rainfall this year according to the prediction of NIMET, and we are going to have a prolong shortfall of rain around June/July.

“The implications is that the earlier we predict the weather and identify varieties that are early mature or the species of crops that can withstand draught earlier the better for our farmers and the ministry is doing everything possible in ensuring that our farmers will received good verities of crops before farming season commences,” he assured farmers.