Irish potato farmers in Katsina State are facing scarcity of seedlings – a development that has forced some of them to opt for the cultivation of cabbage, wheat or cucumber. Daily Trust reports that over the years, Irish potato farming has gained momentum in the southern part of the state, particularly in Bakori, Danja and Funtua LGAs. The seedlings, according to the farmers, were sourced yearly from Plateau State by dealers but that the scarcity, particularly of the SP variety, has hit the market since the last one month.
Malam Lawal AbdurRahman of Gwamutsawa, Bakori LGA, who spoke with our correspondent, however, explained that the situation affected mostly the second batch producers of the crop. “Because Irish potato requires cold season, we produce it from October to March in two phases. Those in the first batch were lucky as they accessed the seedlings easily and at an affordable price. “Those who chose to cultivate it from December to March are the ones suffering and some of them are now switching to farming cabbage, wheat or cucumber,” he stated. He added that within the period of only two months the price of 100Kg bag of the seeds rose to N70,000 from N30,000. “Some of us that planted the crop in October bought a bag of SP variety at not more than N30,000 but now it costs N65,000 to N70,000. “Beside the huge amount of fertilizer the crop requires, there are costs of weeding, fuel for watering and other miscellaneous expenses. The peak price of the produce is N20,000 a bag.
This simple arithmetic is the reason some of us opted for other crops that have less cost of production,” AbdurRahman said. Maude Aliyu, a potato seller in Funtua, said in most cases the scarcity of the produce or its price hike were artificial. “Because most potato farmers are villagers residing in remote areas, dealers in the produce dictate the supply and the price. It is true that the SP variety is now scarce in the market but just a week ago, we bought ‘Mycola’ variety at N25,000 in Plateau State against N45,000 they were selling it in Katsina State,” the trader revealed. He added that in order to protect their interests, the farmers need to form strong associations in their respective domains, so that they eliminate the problem of ‘middlemen’ in the supply of seedlings to their members.
An Irish potato farm at Danja, Katsina state “Most of the suppliers of the seeds are the ones who come to buy the produce from the farmers, sometimes on credit, under the guise of market glut in Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja markets,” Aliyu said. Abubakar Garba, a potato farmer in Danja, said it was not only the cost of seeds that disturbed them but also the high price of fertiliser. “It has become worrisome to us that after buying a bag of seed at N70,000 we have to buy a bag of NPK fertilizer at not less than N7,000. “Government needs to intervene and invest in Irish potato farming in this state because it has bright prospect considering how it is one of the mainstay of the Plateau state economy.” Garba added that in the agricultural sector, too, there is need for diversification in order to reap optimum benefits. He called on farmers and not to be deterred by the challenges in the production of the crop.
SOURCE: DAILY TRUST