By Azania Post Reporter
TANZANIA has become number one in production of sweet potatoes in the African continent, a new research which was conducted by University of Dodoma (UDOM) has revealed.
Speaking in an interview head of statistics at UDOM, Dr. Joel Mmasa said the research which was conducted a few years ago has revealed that Tanzania now becomes number one sweet potato producer ahead of Nigeria.
The statistics show that apart from Tanzania other African countries which produce sweet potatoes in large amount includes Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda.
According to statistics two years ago Tanzania produced 3,345,170 metric tons of sweet potatoes followed by Nigeria (3,178,270), Ethiopia (2,701,599), Uganda (1,863,000) and Rwanda (1,080,780).
Sweet potato is grown throughout Tanzania. Nationally, it is the third most important root and tuber crop after cassava and round (Solanum) potato.
In national food production, it ranks fourth after maize, cassava, and beans.
The crop plays an important role in household food security and is produced mainly for home consumption. It occupies approximately 14 percent of the total arable land of the farms surveyed.
The crop is most important in the Lake and Eastern Zones, moderately important in Southern Highlands and Northern zones; and less important in the southern and Central zones.
Average yields of fresh sweet potato storage roots are very low- a rough estimate of the mean yield at farm level is 5.5 tons per hectare. Sweet potato roots are primarily consumed fresh, most usually just boiled, although they are also roasted and used as an ingredient in some traditional dishes.
Stakeholders say a major production constraint is the susceptibility of many of the varieties currently grown to sweet potato weevils and diseases.
Improved characteristics which farmers would like to see include good root-cooking characteristics, extended in ground storability, high market value, and drought tolerance.
Major constraints limiting production in the order of importance mentioned by farmers include sweet potato weevils, drought, shortage of planting material, low roots yield, vertebrate pest (moles, rats, pigs), viral and fungal diseases, poor market accessibility, storage pest (larger grain borers), and low soil fertility.
They say post-harvest handling techniques should be improved to minimize losses. Diversified use of sweet potato and the development of new products which use the crop as an ingredient would open up new markets, which in turn would be an incentive to farmers to increase productivity per unit area.