November 29, 2020

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FG pledges to ensure food security in post COVID-19 era

3 min read

By NSA GILL, Calabar

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development on Wednesday gave assurance to the Nigerian Government to ensure that the country would not experience any food shortage crises in the coming year arising from the fall-out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The assurance was given in Calabar on Wednesday during a one-day Stakeholders workshop on the adoption and utilization of Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato OFSP for the South-South region.

Giving a keynote address at the event, the Director of the Federal Department of Agriculture, Mrs., Karima Babangida remarked that “It has come to the knowledge of the ministry, the immense wealth and health benefits in potato production, especially Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) and as such the ministry is willing to explore these opportunities within the value chain in furtherance to achieving food and nutrition security for our beloved country.”

Adding, “the primary objective of convening this stakeholder workshop is to create a forum for the stakeholders in the potato value chain to chart a way forward for the realization of the fullest potentials locked up in potato production, processing and marketing.”

She further charged the ADP’s and the various potato commodity associations to embrace new innovations to build their capacity in production, processing and marketing.”

“These can be achieved using the various existing platforms of the Farmers Business School (FBS); Cooperative Business School (CBS); Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to improve farming activities all around.”

Also speaking, Head of the National Root Crops Research Institute NRCRI, Dr Solomon Afuape said cultivating OFSP was fast and could give a farmer 10 tons of produce from one hectare of farmland.

Afuape who was also a sweet potato breeder maintained that processing of OFSP had remained a challenge adding that awareness and processing of the product was still low.

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“OFSP is an improved variety of potato which apart from being food is also medicine because it improves vision, strengthens the immune system, acts as an antioxidant and highly nutritious in vitamin A, C and other micronutrients.

“It can be cultivated in all states of Nigeria and has a short duration of three months; while the nation has over four million tons of OFSP, this can be doubled in five years.

“The plant has three different varieties, King J, Mother’s Delight and Solo Gold which must be cultivated with quality planting materials, good soil tilt and adequate soil moisture for maximum yield,” he said.

Afuape however added that OFSP farmers must form a single, strong, and vibrant cooperative that can lobby the government and their agencies for favourable policies and assistance.

Similarly, Mr. David Obisesan an official of the International Potato Centre (CIP) said although, OFSP cultivation was very important, Nigeria was far behind in cultivation, unlike its East African counterparts.

Obisesan said 29 per cent of the Nigerian population was vitamin A deficient adding that the northern part of the country was the worst hit with 48 per cent of children under five years in Kano and Jigawa lacking vitamin A.

He called on the government and the media to help create awareness in addressing the myths among OFSP farmers and emphasize value addition in the produce.

In a delayed opening remark, the Commissioner for Agriculture in Cross River State Ntufam Okon Owuna noted the commitment of the federal government of Nigeria towards support for farmers and urged that stakeholders should avail themselves of all available opportunities.