2,000 Plateau Farmers Lose Potato Farms Worth N18bn to Blight Disease
Two thousand Plateau State farmers have lost their potato farms worth N18 billion to blight disease of the crop, state Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr Hosea Istifanus Finangwal, has confirmed. The commissioner made the disclosure when delegates from the National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike paid a courtesy visit on him in Jos, on Tuesday. Explaining, Finangwal noted that out of 150,000 hectares cultivated land; about 52,000 hectares were infected with blight which makes 2,000 farmers lose N18bn worth of potatoes. According to him, the ministry was proactive in reporting the case to the state Governor, Simon Lalong, who immediately reached out to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, (FMARD). The commissioner, further, informed that FMARD sent delegates from the research institute to the state as part of efforts to proffer solution and prevent future occurrence of the disease. On his part, head of the delegation and Director, Biotech Department of the institute, Dr Joseph Onyeka, said they were in Jos to interact with stakeholders on ways to develop viable resistant seedlings of potato, among others. According to him, the team would upgrade the tissue culture laboratory to make it functional, saying they were in the state to help resolve the recurring outbreak of the disease. “We want to find preventive measures, upgrade the tissue culture so that quality and disease-free materials can be obtained,” he added. Also, Onyeka informed that the team would interface with the state government on storage equipment, tolerant varieties and processing facilities, noting that farmers needed to learn how to use fungicides as they are protective not curative. “Farmers must be sensitised and properly taught how to use fungicides and also take instructions from extension workers,’’ he stressed.