Plateau farmers want governments’ intervention against potato blight disease

Plateau farmers battling with the potato blight disease on Thursday called for State and Federal Governments’ interventions to arrest the situation.

Some of the farmers in Mangu, Bokkos and Pankshin Local Government Areas of the state made the call in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Pankshin.

According to them, the effects of the disease is “very worrisome” and “detrimental” to food security in the country.

Blight disease, which first surfaced in the state in 2014, left well over 100,000 hectares out of the 250,000 Irish potato farmlands in the areas destroyed.

It took the intervention of the state government, which provided N68 million as counterpart funding to that of the Federal Government toward potato production and curtailment of the disease at the time.

Mr Rindugun Timothy, Chairman, Potatoes Value Chain Support Project, Mangu Local Government Area, said that the effects of the disease in the area was overwhelming.

“We are overwhelmed by the effects of the blight disease on our Irish Potato farms, as most of the crops are just dying.

“The destructive effects of the blight disease on the crops are particularly high in the southern parts of Mangu, comprising Mangun, Ampang-West and Kerang Districts.

“Mostly affected are crops that are either flowering or at ripening stages, in spite of the farmers’ efforts in applying and spraying fungicides to help arrest the situation.

“This year’s blight disease took us unaware because in the first place, we were not expecting it due to the late rainfall, which made us to start land cultivation and planting very late,” he noted.

According to him, unless the Federal and state governments quickly come to our rescue, we may experience sharp fall in food production, now that the farmers are still facing the shortage of fertiliser.

Timothy urged governments at both levels to conduct a research and come up with the best solution to the disease in the state.

Mr Christopher Shuaibu, Pankshin Local Government Area Chairman on Potatoes Value Chain Support Project, stated that the worst hit by the disease were farmers involved in commercial cultivation of the crop.

“Most of them have applied the fungicides (both liquid and powder) yet with little result, thereby sending a dangerous signal of total loss in their farming investments this year.

“We have used the liquid fungicides such as Fagurore and Blue Snow and the powdered Snow, SkyWork and Glory, yet there is no result.

“Probably, only the bouyant farmers, who  can spray the crops more than five times, may rescue some of the crops, ” Shuaibu said.

Mr Damshahal Makwin, a peasant farmer in Bokkos, described the situation in Bokkos Local Government Area, as pathetic, requiring the government’s intervention to overcome the disease.

“All we want is a repeat of the serious attention the governments accorded the disease in 2014 to save the situation and prevent the farmers from incurring heavy losses,” Makwin said.

Responding, the State Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Hosea Finangwai, said that the State Government was aware of the situation and was doing all it could to address this problem as quickly as possible.

“The Simon Lalong-led administration is not folding its arms over the Potato Blight disease, but thinking of deploying experts to the affected areas, to see how best the situation can be handled,” Finangwai said.

He urged the farmers to be patient and cooperate with the experts when they visited toward finding a lasting solution to the disease. (NAN)