By Dennis Agbo
TWO thousands women Ebonyi state will in no distant time commence training on the modern techniques of potato farming as well as various methods of processing, packaging and usage of potato as a major staple food and cash crop in Nigeria.
After the training, the trainees would be provided with soft loans to start any aspect of potato production, processing, and marketing or in the alternative establish cottage industries through a cooperative arrangement.
National Chairman of Potato Farmers Association of Nigeria (POFAN), Mr. Daniel Okafor said in Abakaliki that POFAN was collaborating with the Bank of Industry, the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) and the state governments, adding that plans are on to introduce a new and high yielding variety of potato by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in conjunction with the Federal Government.
â€œThe reasons for the new variety include that the yield will be excellently high, the vitamin content will be very high and the carbohydrate content highâ€¦potato is one of the unpopular but very important root crops grown in Nigeria, it is a wonderful crop becauseÂ it grows everywhere and it stays only three months to mature.
This means that sweet potato farmer cannot suffer hunger; it can be planted along with yam, cassava, cocoyam and maize, but the best yield is obtained when it is planted as a sole crop where it yield up to 15 to 20 tons per hectare,â€ said Okafor
He added that sweet potato has many varieties ranging from white, yellow and orange, which are rich source of vitamin A. â€œSo you can eat sweet potato, fry it, use as a potage, it can be processed into flour and used for bread baking and other pastries, it can be boiled, mashed and formed into sweet potato egg rolls etc.
So it is used for beverages and in pharmaceutical industries, it can serve as a sweetener instead of sugar, it is used in making starch, the leaves are used as a vegetable because it contains vitamins, and the pearls can be mixed up as feed for livestock; it is a good source ofÂ Â income,â€ Okafor explained
The POFAN chairman stated that sweet potato can be a source of foreign exchange and appealed to the federal, state governments and other agencies to assist the farmers in providing storage facilities such as preservatives and modern bans in order to make the produce exportable.