Potato farmers’ struggle: Late blight disease looms

While the disease poses no threat to consumers, some farmers are counting their losses as the infection rate reached nearly 80 percent

(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN —The Jordan Valley has witnessed a significant spread of the late blight disease among potato crops, resulting in the destruction of most crops and causing substantial losses for farmers. Initial estimates indicate an infection rate of approximately 80 percent, posing a significant challenge for farmers and making it difficult to compensate for the losses caused by this epidemic.اضافة اعلان

To address this challenging situation, the Ministry of Agriculture has initiated damage assessment operations, aiming to provide support and assistance to affected farmers. Plans are underway to organize detailed assessments to identify affected farmers, damaged areas, and infection rates, to take necessary measures to deal with these difficult circumstances, according to Ministry Spokesperson Lawrence Majali.

Majali emphasized that the disease affecting potato crops does not pose a threat to consumer health, however, its spread has severely devastated crops and was observed during the rainy period that lasted for more than two weeks.

The outbreak of the late blight disease is attributed to the moist weather conditions and continuous intermittent rainfall over a prolonged period, leading to farmers' inability to carry out preventive spraying operations.

Despite the disease's impact on production quantities per unit area, large areas planted with potatoes in the Jordan Valley have managed to compensate for the production shortfall. Consequently, there are no concerns about potato abundance in the markets, especially during the blessed month of Ramadan.

The Ministry of Agriculture is working diligently to provide support to affected farmers and improve preventive measures to prevent such occurrences in the future while ensuring the continued availability of potatoes in the markets.

Additionally, the Ministry clarified in a press statement recently that potato quantities in Jordan exceed domestic demand, as the daily need for potatoes is 400 tonnes. The average quantities supplied to central markets were 487 tons, with 421 tons daily for each of January and February, respectively. The quantities supplied to markets exceed market needs, evidenced by exports averaging 800 tonnes per month.

The Ministry further pointed out that price indicators would remain moderate, with low and moderate potato prices delaying harvesting operations among farmers. Potato prices ranged from 30 to 40 cents per kilogram during January and February.

The Ministry urged cooperation and patience from citizens in dealing with these losses alongside farmers, emphasizing the importance of avoiding imports. In the past five months, farmers have incurred significant losses due to oversupply, resulting in lower potato prices.

Director of the Farmers Union, Mahmoud Al-Oran, stated that the latest amendments to the Risk Fund are supposed to cover general cases, and its role must be activated. Determining whether these cases are general or individual is the responsibility of a specialized committee. Al-Oran stressed the need for immediate and swift decisions to achieve sustainable development and fulfill the Fund's purpose, away from bureaucracy.

Fairness to farmers
Oran also called for a review of the legislation and regulations governing work in the agricultural sector and the central wholesale market system. He emphasized that auction prices should start at cost, as it is illogical for the cost of the potato box to be JD3 and the auction to start at JD0.5, ending at JD1, causing significant losses to farmers. He also stressed that sales should be based on weight rather than parcels to ensure fairness to farmers.

The Ministry's statement concluded by assuring that the late blight disease and other fungal diseases do not affect consumer health and that it continues to monitor and address agricultural challenges to ensure market stability and food security.

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