GOVERNMENT has set a target of producing 1.7million potatoes locally — a move that is expected to strengthen the State's import substitution program.
Department of Agriculture extension services director Uraia Waibuta revealed potato farmers were hard at work to minimise reliance on imported potatoes by producing quality results.
"The department in consultation with farmers has started harvesting potatoes in the Western Division. This year's planting season involved 180 hectares of potatoes," Mr Waibuta said in a statement.
"We anticipate to harvest 1800 tonnes of potatoes come the end of the month and by the look of waht is on the ground from the fields especially in Nadarivatu and the crops that were planted in the upper lands of Navosa, the crop is looking good and the farmers are happy with their harvest.
"They (farmers) are producing results and the department is working hard to reduce the cost of production to around 65-70 cents a kilogram — in order to compete with potatoes being imported from overseas."
He said the present selling price of potatoes — 65-75 cents per kilogram — in local supermarkets would continue to pose a challenge in the industry hence the aim to reduce the cost of production.
Meanwhile, Mr Waibuta acknowledged FMF Foods Limited and other marketing agencies for buying most of the crops that will be harvested, adding technical officers from the department have been sent into the field to facilitate the marketing of locally-produced potatoes.