Potato farmers have formed an organisation to promote the growing of the crop and boost its contribution to the countryâ€™s agricultural sector.
The newly formed organisation, the Potato Growers Association in Zimbabwe, aims to increase potato production and create a platform for farmers to engage in programmes which will help them get easier access to funding and inputs.
156 members have joined the organisation with more expected to be registered in coming months.
The organisation has been formed at a time when concerted efforts are being taken to increase output of various crops to maximise production on land allocated under the Land Reform Programme.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for 120 farmers who underwent a 7 month potato production workshop at Gwebi College of Agriculture, Potato Growers Association Chairman, Mr Jakes Chiduku said there is a huge market for potatoes, which has not been utilised by local farmers, leaving room for exports to dominate the market in some areas.
â€œWe want to mass produce potatoes in order to beat imports on our local market. For example, South Africa has captured the market in Mozambique, Angola, everywhere and their objective is to come in Zimbabwe, but we are saying our economy is agro-based and we can not afford to let down this country. We have people capable of producing and to build this economy,â€ Mr Chduku said.
Agriculture Education and Farmer Training Department Director in the Ministry of Agriculture Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Mr Moffat Nyamangara said there is vast potential for potato consumption in the country to compete with the staple food maize.
He said that government is committed to supporting the training of farmers producing different type of crops in Zimbabwe so that they realise their full potential.
â€œWe have the training facilities on behalf of the government that you can use when you wish to. The farmers are our key stakeholders because we train people for the farming sector whether as farm managers or technical staff,â€ said Mr Nyamangara.Â Â Â Â Â
Over 120 farmers received certificates after learning different aspects of potato production including seed handling, land preparations, soil and fertiliser management and harvesting and marketing.