Preparing to host the 10th triennial conference of the African Potato Association (APA), experts expressed the viabilities of the potentials of potato for commercialization in the country.
In a press conference held on Thursday at Hilton Addis, Endale Gebre (PhD) president of the APA pointed out that Ethiopia has been cultivating some 1.8 million tons of potato from a total land of 176,000 hectares. He mentioned that 3.7 million households are engaged in farming the potato. In addition to that 75,000 hectares of land has been cultivated with sweet potatoes to help both subsistence and cash crop farmers.
However, Ethiopia remains far behind exploiting potato and sweet potato for commercial use. The growing seasons, according to Endale and Gebremedihin WoldeGiorgis, secretary of APA and senior researcher of potato, are very short compared to other cash crops. It takes 90 to 120 days to cultivate potato in a difficult weather conditions. According to the experts, potato is considered as a hunger-busting crop. “Potato and sweet potato are the essential food security and cash crops in Ethiopia as they produce more calories per unit area and per water unit than any other major food crop”, Endale said.
That, however, was not seen helping the country that has been strangled by the evasive drought affecting 10 million people. According to Endale and his colleagues as well as Shawkat A. Begum, vice president of APA and head of International Potato Center (CIP-Ethiopia), availability of quality seeds to farmers, logistical and in-time coordination of cultivation are some of the challenges where potato was not considered to be an immediate solution to the drought crisis. Policy considerations and priorities as well have contributing factors, they said.
The 10th conference, which is held every three years, is expected to bring together some 200 experts, policymakers, entrepreneurs and the like. The event is to be held from October 9 to 13, 2016 at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).
Established in 1983 in Zambia, the African Potato Association has been held in rotation in Africa every three years where Ethiopia is hosting the event in collaboration with the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute together with CIP-Ethiopia and the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.