POTATO planting continues to serve as an income generating activity for farmers in the Sigatoka Valley.
And with the Department of Agriculture working on producing its own potato seedlings to reduce imports from New Zealand, farmers are excited about the upcoming variety undergoing trials in the area.
Department director extension services Uraia Waibuta said their research division had already started planting some potato seeds from Australia.
Harvesting of the crops and storing it for another six months before another planting season begins is a problem for the potato industry, particularly when the long period of storage would cause the planting materials to shrink and eventually rot.
"That is why our research staff are trying to come up with the technology to shorten the period but also produce our own planting materials," Mr Waibuta said in a statement.
"For the time being, we will continue to import seeds but even if we import seeds and distribute them to the farmers, we can still bring down the cost and make this crop viable."
Sigatoka farmer Sereani Naveli said potato farming was a means of income for her family. She said the two varieties currently planted on their two-acre farm — Red Rascal and Ilam Hardy — were sold to FMF Foods Limited for $1 a kilogram.
"Our farming period for potato is from July to October and we harvest around three tonnes. It's good money.
"Last year, we planted potatoes with other farmers but this year, we decided to do things on our own," said Ms Naveli who works alongside husband, Eremasi.
"For us in Sigatoka, July to October is the only time we can plant potatoes unlike the farmers in Nadarivatu who can plant it all other months.
"Apart from potatoes, we also plant watermelons and other vegetables to be sold at the Sigatoka market on Saturdays."
Ms Naveli said they were looking forward to the production of local potato seedlings.