Address by Minister of Agriculture; Mr. Arefaine Berhe at the National Potato Conference

Mr. Chairman;

Distinguished Participants from

CIP, Teagasc, Vita, ASARECA

Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania;

Senior Government Officials;

FAO Resident Representative;

Deans of Hamelmalo and Science College;

Invited guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

 

It really gives me great pleasure to warmly welcome you all to Asmara and especially to those coming from outside Eritrea to this maiden National Potato Conference.  In the presentations of yesterday and the morning of today, we have covered a large territory on Eritrea’s experience in potato trials, production distribution, regulation and marketing.   More significantly we have had presentation from the potato god-father or mother the CIP, our long-time close partners in potato promotion and development Teagasc and Vita from our regional research umbrella ASARECA and our regional would-be partners Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

 

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Eritrea is only on the first step of the ladder in terms of potato production and even more so on productivity your combined assistance is absolutely crucial for us.  As we all know and appreciate, potato is the third most consumed crop globally because of its economic and nutritional value.  In Eritrea it is number five.  Our final destination is, therefore, to produce potatoes in abundance throughout the country and throughout the year to make it accessible to every Eritrean at an affordable price at all times.

To do this, we have to make trials on different varieties that can thrive in the highlands and lowlands.  We have barely started production of table potatoes in the lowlands last year with very encouraging results.  However, we need to do more and especially with varieties that are developed by CIP for that kind of climate.  Our expectation from our long-time partners is to increase the scope and depth of our cooperation.  From CIP we expect to get focused training, technical assistance and especially planting materials with very high quality, short duration for both the highland and lowland. I am glad that Dr. Monica raised the issue of sweet potatoes as well.  That is a priority crop for us as we are seriously working to tackle the incidence of any malnutrition in children under 5 years of age.  For this, we need high-quality and nutritious planting material with short cycle production.

Mr. Chairman,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Considering our modest experience and the cooperation we get from our long-term and new partners, our first priority is to articulate the next five-year strategic plan in the areas of research, extension, regulation and capacity building.

Production in quantity and quality will take a center stage.  However, value addition will also be given its due attention.

For this to happen production of healthy quality seed potatoes is the bottom line and we will endeavor to reach this height, hopefully, in the next five-year cycle.  To this effect, we take good note of the strong recommendation made regarding importation of seed potatoes.  We will focus, as much as possible, on producing clean and safe seeds through our tissue culture technology to avoid unnecessary contamination.

Dear participants, as you saw in some of our posters, we are giving utmost emphasis to the production, refinement, regulation and wide distribution of solid and liquid bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides in order to attain our final goal of ensuring safe and nutritious food security.  I am sure we can all appreciate that we can not have sustainable development without caring for the environment.

In conclusion I would like to acknowledge the tireless and effective work of the Ministry staff at the headquarters and zobas and especially the farmers who are the engine of development.

I would also like to take this opportunity to extend my profound gratitude to our long-time development partners Teagasc and Vita, our regional research network coordinator ASARECA, The International Potato Center (CIP) and our regional partners Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.  Your participation and constructive contribution is highly appreciated.

However, I can not end my concluding remarks without acknowledging the fundamental contribution of a great friend and a devoted professional Dr. John Burkes who turned the chapter of potato production in Eritrea.

 

Finally please allow me to commend the organizers of the conference for a job extremely well done.

 

Thank you for your attention!