The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) is currently distributing potato seeds to the main productive islands of potatoes namely Tanna, Efate, Epi, Santo and Malekula this month.

The DARD will work closely with key farmers, especially to establish farmers’ plots and to monitor progress on this activity.

On Tuesday 04th of June 2019, DARD signed an agreement with the Tamamere Farmers Association (TFA) to provide one tonne of certified Sebago variety potato seeds of Generation Five (G5).

The Director of DARD, Mr. Antoine Ravo stated that currently the Department is issuing contract services to farmers’ associations and the private sector to perform specific roles that the Department has identify as advantages and capacity of its stakeholders.

Mr. Ravo emphasise that as a Government Department, there is a need to come up with good strategies in place to allow greater opportunities to develop the local private sector.

Provincial Agriculture Officer (PAO) for SHEFA province, Willie Iau, said DARD has been working with the Tamamere Farmers Cooperative (TFC) since its establishment in 2017 and the Department is fortunate to work with an organised farmers group like the TFA.

“50 bags of potato seeds were given to TFA for production and after three months, potatoes will be harvested for sale and under the agreement,” said SHEFA PAO Iau.

“TFC will pay for the potato seeds at an amount of VT300,000.”

Mr. Iau said G5 potato seeds will be sold to farmers who are interested and G3 seeds will be planted at the Tagabe Agriculture Farm for seed production so farmers could have access to generation four and five as planting materials next season.

“DARD is now selling the potato seeds at VT6,000 per bag, weight of 20 kilos. More technical information on potato planting can be obtained from the Department of Agriculture information division,” said Mr. Iau.

The chairman of TFA, Mr. Christopher Crowby, said “this is a huge step forward for the farmers to invest in potatoes.

TFA has a good working relationship with DARD so this agreement will motivate the farmers to continue to increase production of all crops they are dealing with”.

Mr. Crowby said the potato seeds will be planted on a two-hectare area depending on the number of seeds.

“The potato seeds will be planted this month and after three months, DARD will witness the harvesting of these potatoes and at the same time evaluate the results of production done by farmers.

“The demand of potato domestically is very high but the challenge is the consistency of the supplies from farmers and the preservation of seeds for ongoing production to meet market demand,” the TFA chairman added.

Trials of different varieties of potato were implemented on various sites and the outcome indicate that the Sebago potato variety is proven to be the best variety that grows well in Vanuatu. Sebago is very popular on Tanna.

The planting spacing of potato seeds is 70 centimetres between plants and 50 centimetres between rows and five to ten centimetres deep.

The first planting season is between March and April and the second planting season is between May and June.

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