After the first harvest of an overall estimated 40 tons of potatoes on Tanna this week, Director of Agriculture, Antoine Ravo says there is excitement in the air among the farmers and the future looks bright.
In terms of profit and loss or agri-business, he says the farmers now understand what they have to do to make more money from their farms.
They know that diversification is important and farming potatoes can become more profitable when a tractor is used to plough the field. “Some farmers on Tanna earn enough money from their farms to buy vehicles and now they realise that perhaps it is going to be far more profitable on the long run if they buy a tractor instead”, he says.
While praising the farmers of being soil scientists themselves, he says the missing link to how they manage their farms is the chemistry of how to make a profit by comparing farming one crop with another.
He explains, “While other crops may also take three months to harvest but their returns are not as much as that of potatoes so already the indication is clear that farmers have to diversify to farming potatoes”.
The Director says the way forward is for farmers to help the Government by buying their own potato seeds and meeting the costs of freight and ploughing.
Also farmers have to form their own Farmers’ Producers Associations and linking them to the Department of Cooperatives as their marketing arm. “Our Minister is working closely to link Agriculture with Cooperative and in fact, the latter is buying the potatoes, carrots and onions from the farmers and marketing them while the Minister is providing free transportation of the potatoes to Port Vila on his ship”, he confirms.
South Tanna already has a Potato Farmers Association. The Government needs to continue to help farmers to manage their spending and profit because history has proved that in the past many associations had collapsed due to lack of proper management of their resources.