Plateau produces 90% of potatoes consumed in Nig., WA, Lalong tells AfDB

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• Inaugurates a 14man committee on grazing reserves 

By FRANK OYAKHILOME

THE Plateau State Govenor, Simon Lalong has disclosed that the Potato Value Chain has the potential to create 60,000 jobs for the citizens of the state as its produces over 90pecent of total potatoes consumed in Nigeria, when he was declaring open African Development Bank (AFDB) team meeting with stakeholders and farmers representatives in Plateau on Potato Value Chain Support Project holding in Jos recently.

Lalong who stated that expert projection indicates that the state produces potato in all the 17 Local Government Areas, thus a huge potential in potato value chain, adding that the nature has endowed the state with comparative advantage in terms of favourable weather and soil for the production of potato.

The Governor noted that all these factors influenced the AfDB’s choice of Plateau as the single beneficiary of the Potato Value Chain Support Project in the country, adding that it is his hope that the project will address the constraints of potato production of our farmers such as availability of good quality seeds locally. More so the project will also control disease which has ravaged our farms, post-harvest loss and marketing of potato, Lalong said.

He said that Plateau was not only the ‘Home of Peace and Tourism’ but also the indisputable home of Potato in Nigeria, as the state produces about 90 per cent of the potato consumed in Nigeria, besides the export of quality stock to neighbouring countries such like Chad, Niger and Benin Republic.

The Governor who expressed optimism that the attendant increase of potato production and establishment of processing industries would fulfill this administration’s agenda of boosting agricultural production, rural development and industrial development, assured the stakeholders and farmers’ representatives that his administration was committed to the success of the potato value chain support project.

He revealed that as a pre-condition for Plateau to participate in the proposed Potato Value Chain Project, the present administration had to pay the backlog of counterpart fund (2009-2013) amounting to N54.4 million, adding that it has greatly facilitated the engagement of a consultant to start the preparation of preliminary documents for the project and payment of backlog of Fadam II Staff Allowances. Lalong further said that another sum of N25 million being the 2016 counterpart fund has also been released by this administration.

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The AfDB Team Leader, Dr Ibrahim Ahmadu, said that they were in the state for preparation mission to conduct a feasibility study on the proposed potato value chain, stressing that during the mission; AfDB will hold discussions with government authorities and the relevant stakeholders.

Adamu further explained that the discussions will ensure technical adherence to the designs and also its consistency with national policies, financial and economic viability for sustainability, as the mission will review all potato development alternatives and will look at all possible scenarios of getting the desired output.

In another development, the Governor, Simon Lalong has inaugurated a 14-man team to examine the gains and implications of establishing cattle grazing reserves and ranches in the state at a high-level dialogue on grazing ranches organisd by Search for Common Ground, an international NGO.

Lalong disclosed that the team’s report would guide government on the next step, as they were expected to determine the difference between grazing reserves and ranches, and suggest which would fit more conveniently into the peculiar situation in Plateau.

The Governor dismissed the claims that Plateau had already given out land for ranches, declaring that the state had only made a statement of intent, reiterating that Plateau has not taken any decision on whether to establish ranches or grazing reserves.

He further explained that discussions and consultations are still ongoing at various levels and it is the result of such discussions that will coalesce into what Plateau will decide to do, but regretted that all that had been said so far on the issue had been based on “ignorance, deliberate distortions, lies and outright mischief.”

Lalong explains that reserves had been in Plateau for long, adding that the state had found them obsolete as they had consistently led to deeper interactions between the farmers and herdsmen. He noted that such interactions have led to more clashes and all we want now is to look for channels to end such clashes and violence.

He cautioned politicians against politicising sensitive issues that could lead to conflicts, suggesting that the interest of the public should always be paramount in all policies and public discourse and reaffirmed that the government was being careful in handling the issue, as he noted that the final decision would depend solely on the wishes of the Plateau people.

The President, Search for Common Ground, Mr Shamil Idris, in his remarks, urged leaders to ensure more enlightenment that would focus on promoting more common grounds for peace, adding that natural disasters and even the effects of climate change were developments that humanity must come together to tackle toward a safe world for all.

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