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GOVERNMENT has banned importation of potatoes and potato seeds following an outbreak of Pepper ringspot virus which is currently affecting potatoes in South Africa.
Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Professor Obert Jiri said they are restricting importation of potatoes to ensure that they save growers from making losses adding that all importers of potatoes should comply with this.
“We are therefore really on the watch because this might also affect our potatoes and our potato farmers which would be unfortunate. We are therefore taking measures to ensure that we don’t risk our growers of farmers in the country. We will restrict the importation of potatoes so that we protect our farmers from that ringspot virus.
This is important that all importers of potatoes comply with this directive during this period” he said.
Prof Jiri said he will send a team of experts to South Africa to have a closer look at the situation and ensure that the pest is restricted where it started.
He said potato seed is on the top of the agenda to restrict adding that he will not be alloving potato seed unless if cleared.
“At the moment we need to see the protocols of how that pest can be identified so we will definitely restrict potato seed importation. We also monitor the situation so that we see whether the potatoes that are for eating are in that category and we will be very much comprehensive to ensure that there is no risk to our potato growers,” he said.
Potatoes are still king, accounting for millions of dollars a year that contribute to the backbone of the economy and boost farm incomes.
Farmers have greatly improved on the selection of seed for high-yielding varieties, embraced soil testing, and
used analysis results to determine fertiliser requirements, better management practices and enhanced pest and disease control.
In an effort to complement Government’s efforts, local farmers have put confidence strides forward to satisfy local markets, as well as exports.
A Bindura farmer Mr Daniel Muringai said last season was good, adding that his larger markets are Mbare and large supermarkets.
The market was good last season and we are also expecting the same this month. The good market is Mbare. It can take from cuts, smalls, medium up to large potatoes.
“We also deliver to restaurants such as Chicken Inn and supermarkets like Greens in Bulawayo, Choppies in Bulawayo and Harare as well. Some of them were rotting because of too much water that vwas sitting on the beds,” he said.
Mrs Alice Mandaza of Banket in Zvimba district was expecting bumper harvests last year but failed to do so because of heavy rains. “From our last summer crop we got 62 tonnes per hectare because we received too much rain, unlike this season. We had too much rain in January and December which is why some of them
failed to do well,” she said.
Mrs Mandaza urged other farmers to make use of good agricultural practices when growing potatoes.
“I lurge all farmers who are doing potatoes to do their routine sprays correctly in time, put preventative chemicals every week and curative chemicals when there is too much rain because some other varieties are tolerant to diseases, but all varieties are affected by pests,” she said.
She urged farmers to scout regularly to detect pests and diseases.
Though they have encountered some losses, potato farmers confirmed that the market was good and could breach the loss gap, with more profits likely to come out from their farm produce.
Government declared potato a strategic crop to enhance food security at household and national level and instituted a number of measures to prop its production, chief among them a ban on table potato imports since 2010. This was a deliberate move to protect local potato farmers from unfair competition from cheap potato imports from neighbouring countries. It also allowed supervised importation of certified potato seed by seed
houses to complement local seed production. The Chronicle