Farmers in Bakori Local Government Area of Katsina State have over the years been improving their technical skills in Irish potato production, a development that has attracted many buyers from within and outside the country to the area.
Improvement in the production of the crop in the area which started about 10 years ago, saw the farmers record bumper harvest and good market price for the produce last year.
One of the farmers in Kanawa village, Saddam Aliyu, said the number of farmers of the crop has been on the increase yearly because of the profit it yields.
“A typical local farmer learns only by experience, that is why it is very difficult for many of us to try a new crop variety or method of farming at a go; we only copy from those who took the risk and eventually succeed.
“That is exactly how Irish potato farming is gradually growing in this area and our neighbouring local government areas,” Aliyu noted.
On why the crop is fresher and yield big tubers this year, Saddam said “beside the loamy soil the crop requires, it also needs adequate manure and fertilizer, especially at its initial stage with watering at least once in a week.”
He further said what many of the farmers failed to understand about the crop in the past was how cold weather has positive effect on Irish potato production, just like wheat.
“Hot weather stunts the growth of the tubers and leads to their early rot. That is why even with the abundant water for irrigation, land and fertilizer, we cannot cultivate from late March through April and May,” said Saddam Aliyu.
Another farmer in the area, Muntari Yahuza, told Daily Trust that unlike before when they struggled with the market, buyers now go to their farms direct to purchase the produce which they transport to various markets in the country and even export.
“In the last three years, we had no choice than to delegate one of us to take the produce to Ibadan, Abuja or Lagos to sell. From last year, we sell our potato right inside our farms,” Yahuza said, adding that depending on the variety of potato and how big and fresh the tubers are, the price ranged between N10,000 and N12,000 per 100kg bag.
“We only take our Irish potato to Bakori market on Thursdays and Mondays for the Nigerien merchants who load it in trucks for sale in other markets. The variety they buy most is called ‘Batista’ that has red peels which we sell this to them at N12,000 per 100kg bag,” said Yahuza.
On why Irish potato is not produced during the rainy season in the area, as is done in Plateau State, one Nasiru Yakubu Kanawa, said they have tried several varieties of the crop but all in vain perhaps due to the nature of the soil.
“With the growing production of Irish potato in this area, especially in the dry season, there is need for government to include us in its agricultural policies so that we also produce the crop in the rainy season with the provision of the right varieties of seeds, inputs and technical know-how to the farmers,” he pleaded.
He added that support from government and other agricultural companies will boost potato production in Katsina State beyond expectations.
This year, farmers bought their seeds from Plateau State at the rate of N50,000 per 100kg bag, it was learnt.