Local potato cultivation suffering
NIGERIA HOLDS CONSIDERABLE stakes in African potato production, sitting in the sixth position with 1,246,380 metric tonnes after Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Algeria and Egypt as of 2016.
NIGERIA HOLDS CONSIDE RABLE stakes in African potato production, sitting in the sixth position with 1,246,380 metric tonnes after Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, Algeria and Egypt as of 2016.
Over the past decade, potato production has seen increases in output from 843,000 tonnes in 2007 to 1,206,280 in 2015. This advancement spurred interest in exploring the potential that appears inherent in the potato market and, as being championed in the general agricultural sector, stakeholders have ventured into value-chain development of potato, introducing products like flour, puree, bread and chips among others.
Unfortunately, the excitement for production is not being matched with growth in local consumption trend as enjoyed in other staples like rice, yam, bread or beans.
business a.m. findings reveal that potato farmers are finding it rough getting a vibrant market for their produce and are switching focus to other areas.
The crop is also not coming top on the list of agric investment destinations due to a weak market for produce.
Currently, the potato market is experiencing a glut as producers struggle with lack of off-take and low appre- ciation from end consumers, Bunmi Adeniyi, the director, membership development, Institute of Agribusiness Management Nigeria, said.
Despite increased availability of potato products in most retail outlets, local producers scarcely benefit from the chain as a result of the dominance of import in the value-addition chain, with large scale consumers preferring to import than buy tubers for processing, griped Adeniyi.
Nigeria spends close to $250 million importing processed chips from South Africa, Belgium and Holland while it has the potential to improve yield to about 25 tonnes per hectare under standard agronomic practice with improved seeds and inputs.
“If you have a tuber and you don’t have market for it, will you be encouraged to raise money to buy machines, build factories, crush it into powder only to discover that nobody is ready to buy? I planted a large expanse of potato and when we harvested, we couldn’t sell a tuber. What I did was to process it into powder, packaged it and started talking about the health benefits, but for almost a year, I still have the products of about N400,000 in my store despite my marketing.
The acceptance is not there,” he explained.
Olapeju Phorbee, the country manager, International Potato Centre and national coordinator, Building Nutritious Food Basket (BNFB), affirmed the poor reception for potato, saying attracting investment in potato has been facing passive interest as weak market trend adversely affects sustainable production.
She, however, expressed optimism that things would shape up, especially with the special project, “Scaling up of Biofortified Crops in Nigeria” which the centre embarked upon to promote the crop’s potential.
According to her, extensive work has been done on seed systems, farmers training, enhancement of productivity in few states and aggressive promotion around sensitisation and training for processors in value chain.
“This means we should go beyond boiling to eat, rather we should make products from it. We have been able to come up with some commercially viable products that private sectors can take up in large scale production. We project that more investment interest will come into potato next year. People are already expressing interest in it. We are talking to all stakeholders like investment and financial and research institutions.
We have been engaging some in terms of sweet potato puree which is an intermediate product that a lot of food industry can engage with. Investment is not so easy and friendly in Nigeria but we are talking with NIRSAL on making business case for potato value chain in Nigeria,” she said.
Largely, Phorbee believes the dearth of government support remained a gap that needs to be corrected in terms of awareness around the potential of the crop and knowledge of public needs of the crop.
She further pointed out that government support is required in the area of making product registration easier as some private sector players struggle with unfriendly registration procedure in getting approval for products like potato bread, which she describes as products with potentials and prospects that needs to be encouraged.
She said: “There are products that organisations like Trancorp and Sheraton want to take but without these registrations, they cannot be taken”.
Proffering solutions to the poor consumption rate of the crop which is dampening interest in cultivation, Phorbee said the government can utilise the crop in its developmental programmes across the country to increase production, noting it will further promote the produce and draw needed attention to its benefits.
At a time when the country is fighting vitamin A deficiency, especially among children and women, the government could leverage on the health qualities of the orange fleshed sweet potato (OFSP).
In this same vein, Adeniyi said: “There is a limit to what I can do compared to when government takes it up and, for instance, says it wants to include potato flour into meals for schools, ministries or hospitals.
Before you know, the awareness coverage will be massive and people will be encouraged to go into production.
I won’t even need to produce. All I’ll do then is to get people to produce and I convert into flour”.
Concerning production, she believes that if utilization is done rightly, both sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes will attract vibrant markets.
Irish potato is selective in production for ecological reasons and only grows in places like Plateau state and more recently Kaduna.
But the limitations, she said could be addressed using high technologies like aeroponics and hydroponics rapid multiplication of Potato seeds.
“Consumption of Potato fries and things like French fries is a big market for potato that we have not tapped into. If the productivity of farmers is enhanced and we can have it all year round, it doesn’t matter if it is ecologically selective,” she explained.