SHP ventures into potato farming

The Southern Highlands Provincial Government is taking the National Government’s agriculture policy seriously by introducing potato farming into non potato growing districts of Nipa Kutubu, Kagua Erave and parts of Mendi Munihu and Ialibu Pangia.

Governor William Powi has recently allocated K10 million to support rural farmers to grow potato to utilize the Innovative Agro Industry’s (IAI) Pangia Chips factory which is currently buying locally grown potato.

Department of Agriculture and Livestock Advisor for SHP Kenneth Kuim said he was pleased to see a remarkable interest shown by the local people in farming potato.

Despite the Corona Virus threats around the country, Fresh Produce Development Agency (FPDA) was in the province to provide basic planting skills and supply materials for farmers on trial basis.

Mr Kuim also thanked FPDA on behalf of the SHP government for making time available to provide most needed skills to interested farmers at crucial times like this.

He said the partnership between SHPG and FPDA would be finalized as soon as time and funds become available.

The FPDA team visited five different sites in the Poroma basin of the Nipa Kutubu district but only carried out demonstrations on three sites.

However, the interest demonstrated by local villagers to grow potato was so overwhelming that FPDA officers were compelled to return in a few days with planting materials.

Solomon Ramu representing FPDA said the entire Nipa Kutubu electorate where Poroma LLG was part of had never tried potato as a cash crop.

The people rely on coffee, peanut and bananas as their main source of income adding that if the trials proof positive, Poroma would become a seed distributing hub.

He said FPDA has a government agency would be pleased to partner with SHPG to supply free training and technical skills while through the partnership farmers are able to access seedlings, farm equipment and chemicals.

He said FPDA was the only government agency in the country that certifies and supplies all potato seedling varieties backed by their tissue culture lab in Aiyura and clean seed nursery at Tambul DAL station, WHP.

Mr Kuim said SHPG was privileged to have FPDA on board to assist their program under the agriculture division in the province.

He said last week, 80 bags of seedlings were distributed to interested farmers in SHP provided by IAI in a bid to grow and supply their chips factory.

Mr Ramu said as long as the seeds were certified, it was ok to plant but warned that if potato seeds were not certified for planning, the risk is too high.

He said potato was a disciplined crop and therefore needs careful attention from planting through to harvest.

“If we are not careful with the type of seeds and chemicals, we are buying to grow the crop, we would risk killing the industry,” he said.

Mr Ramu told farmers, teachers and students on a model farm at Tiwaro Primary School outside Poroma Station that this was the first trial for potato in the whole valley and the outcome in two weeks would determine if the crop is suitable for Poroma.

FPDA has six different varieties of potato that are being trailed around the country and only those that suit the climate with promising results are encouraged in those localities.

Mr Kuim also committed K5,000 to the school from his division to assist with seedlings and chemicals to plant the hectares that were cultivated.

The Poroma basin is made up of 23 council wards making up the Poroma LLG which is part of the Nipa Kutubu district.

Freddy Mou