By Peter Amine, Jos.
Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau has appealed to the Federal Government to upgrade the Potato Station in Kuru to a full-fledged Potato Research Institute.
Lalong made the appeal on Thursday at the opening of 45th Regular Meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD) holding in Jos.
Lalong said that the institute was necessary because of increased incidences of devastation of potato farms by potato blight disease.
The governor noted that the blight almost wiped out the existing low yields and degenerated seeds.
“The Potato Research Institute will enable the breaking of new frontiers in varieties research, seed production, introduction of blight-tolerant and disease-resistant varieties.
“It will also help in farmer education, while promoting linkages with other local and international institutions, among others.
“Already, we have conducted research which indicates that potato, usually produced within the central and northern senatorial districts, can now be grown across the 17 Local Government Areas of the state.
“Plateau, as at today, produces about 90 per cent of the potatoes consumed in the country and I think establishing a research institute was imperative,” he said.
Lalong said that as a government, his administration had in the last seven years given enormous attention to agriculture.
He stressed that the state government had ensured the provision of farm inputs, such as tractors, fertilisers, chemicals as well as improved seedlings, towards ensuring that the people benefitted from the natural endowments of the state.
The governor said that farmers have been empowered through cooperative societies and farmer associations in the production of many crops and assorted vegetables, that were unique to Plateau environment.
“Under our partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB), potato farming has been escalated from a subsistence activity to a large-scale activity aimed at supplying the domestic market and promoting exports.
“We have completed a Tissue Culture Laboratory in Mangu as well as built processing centres and warehouses in various local governments.
“Similarly, we have built market stalls in various centres to make the marketing of the product very easy and cost-effective,” he said.
Lalong commended the Federal Government, especially the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, for patronising Plateau.
He stated that aside hosting the NCARD, Plateau last year inaugurated wheat production and was declared as a centre of excellence for wheat production in the country.
He said that Plateau had also received attention and support in the process of implementing the National Livestock Transformation Programme (NLTP).
The Gbong Gwom Jos, Jacob Gyang Buba, in his remarks, said that economic security was critical in efforts to attain physical security.
The traditional ruler lauded the Northern Governors Forum for approving state police for the area.
He said that with adequate security, farmers would return to their farms and increase food production.
Buba appealed to the Federal Ministry Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) to come up with programmes, in collaboration with states, in order address their peculiar agricultural challenges.
He noted that some agricultural programmes failed because they were not compatible with the states’ peculiarities.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama, represented by Mr Janet Olisa, a Director, said that the ministry would continue to support FMARD to achieve its mandate.