Irish potato farmers in Bakori Local Government Area of Katsina State are at present entertaining fears over poor market price of the produce in the area.
Consequently, they are gearing up to harvest the produce and put them for sale before the price worsens.
The farmers, it was gathered, have suffered high cost of seeds and fertilizer, therefore, cannot make any meaningful profit if they sell the produce at the current prices of between N14,000 and N15,000 per bag.
Irish potato farming started in earnest last year in Bakori LGA and many of the farmers made a fortune from the produce; a situation that led them to expand their farmlands this year.
An irrigation farmer in Unguwar Kanawa, Sadi Isma’il, said they bought potato seeds at an exorbitant price of N40,000 per bag and N8,000 for a bag of NPK 15:15:15 but unfortunately the price of a bag of the produce so far is not more than N15,000.
“We found it very hard to secure good potato seeds this year, perhaps, due to crop diseases suffered in Plateau State.
“We bought a bag of seeds at N40,000 while that of fertilizer was N8,000 per bag and those that have no water pumping machines bought new ones at not less than N40,000 each. So if you add other expenses, like labour, you would find that it is hard for the farmer to make a profit if he sells the produce at N14,000 or N15,000 per bag,” the farmer explained.
He added that five bags of fertilizer were required in a farm where a bag of Irish potato is planted, and at the end, the farmer is expected to harvest just about 15 bags.
He also said potato merchants from outside the state are yet to start coming for the produce as they did last year thus leaving the farmers with no option than to transport it to local markets where they sell very cheaper.
Another farmer in the area, Muhammadu Rabi’u Unguwar Baure, said apart from the high cost of inputs, potato farmers were grappling with water shortage.
“The growing number of irrigation farmers in the area has made the only river we depend on to be exhausted early this year. But we dug wells and shallow ponds on the river bed from which we water our farms,” he said.
Muhammadu Rabi’u added that the ongoing work at Jare Dam by the federal government is a welcome development as irrigation farmers in the area and beyond would be the major beneficiaries.
Last January, Daily Trust reported how farmers in the area were motivated by the growing market for Irish potato in the state and its neighbouring states as well as how merchants stormed the area in search of the produce.
A potato trader in Funtua, Usman Isah, said for the farmers to optimally benefit from their sweat, they have to form an association so that they can speak with one voice.
“The number of Irish potato farmers is fast growing, and for the farmers to benefit from their sweat, they have to come up with an association so that they can speak with one voice and protect their interest,” he advised.
He added that through such association they can have a link with potato dealers in places like Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Abuja so that they can sell their produce at a high value.