Potato farmers on Tanna must be breathing with a sigh of relief now that approximately 20% of the potato seedlings planted on their farms last month are sprouting.
The much publicised potato planting week in the West, Middle Bush and South West of the island was jointly launched by the Minister of Agriculture, Matai Seremaiah, Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Jotham Napat, and the Australian High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Jenny Da Rin.
News of the sprouting is confirmed by the Officer in Charge of the Agriculture Station at Isangel, Sam Naiu this week.
He says some are slow to sprout because it is likely the seedlings were buried “too deep”, while some might have rotted while others might have been planted too early when the seedlings were not soft enough for planting.
The national initiative was announced by the Minister of Agriculture on his visit to Tanna last year, after he was invited to harvest potatoes on a farm.
He was so impressed with the harvest that he promised to return with staff and tractors this year to plough and plant potatoes, onions and carrots with the farmers.
He fulfilled his promise when accompanied by his wife, two Acting Director Generals, Directors of Departments under the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Trade and senior technical staff; he returned to Tanna and stayed a week to help the farmers plant their crops.
Previously no minister had ever attempted to order his staff to go down on their hands and knees to dirty their hands and smell the freshness of the soil anywhere in the country.
In fact now that the potatoes are sprouting Seremaiah has already promised to secure the market for the crops and to return with his staff to help the farmers harvest them.
The project is to be replicated on Epi and all other islands which have similar soil and climate.