POTATO farmers in Manicaland have been urged to take potato farming seriously to increase production and exports.
Nyanga District agriculture extension officer Mr Shadreck Chingombe said potato production had declined due to the high cost of inputs.
“Potato production in Zimbabwe is now low due to the high cost of inputs and Government should consider including potatoes under the Command Agriculture scheme,” he said.
Farmers can no longer afford to buy potato seed because it is now expensive. Nyanga district provides the potatoes seed around Zimbabwe because of the low temperatures. Unfortunately, the seed is now expensive. It costs about US$ 22 for a 3 kg pocket of and a farmer needs 60 to 80 pockets for one hectare,” he said.
Mr Chingombe said farmers also needed to be educated on the best approach to potato farming for higher yields adding that farmers needed to go through three stages in potato production.
“There is need for farmers to go through the proper procedures when they grow their crop to ensure they maximise on yields. These stages include soil sampling, routine framing of diseases and buying potato seed from reputable farmers.
“Farmers can go for soil sampling at Africa University laboratory. It is done to reflect the overall or average fertility of the soil to accurately represent the nutrient or mineral status of the soil as well as determining the sweetness of the potato,” he said.
Mr Chingombe said the province could benefit more from potato farming through value addition.
“Our potato production is not reliable it has decreased from 1 200ha to 700 hectares. Currently, most farmers sell their produce at Sakubva market but uptake is low.
“The only way of benefiting from potato farming is through value addition. If they can be processed into chips, farmers would get more money from their produce.”