The Federal Government has disclosed that it will adopt necessary strategies and solutions to reposition yam for as an export crop.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Ernest Umakhihe stated this on Thursday at a stakeholders workshop on the repositioning of yam as an export crop with the theme: “Prospects and Challenges of Yam Export in Nigeria.”
Umakhihe noted that deliberate action must be taken to take yam production, processing and marketing to the next level in line with international best practices if the country must achieve the enormous task of repositioning yam as an export crop.
He said: “Besides food security, wealth creation is the most important form of guaranteeing the sovereignty of a state.
“Accordingly, if we must have sustainable food security for our teeming population of over 200 million Nigerian people and have enough to export to other countries, there is the need to critically examine the factors militating against quality production and export of our major commodities of which yam is one of them.
“Nigeria is the leading producer of fresh yams, yet it is unfortunate to note that despite the huge production, Nigeria is nowhere on the map of countries that export yams.
“I consider this workshop as being very timely as Nigeria is diversifying its economy towards non-oil export commodities. In this regard, agriculture remains the best option. Nigeria has a comparative advantage on yam and therefore deserves to create wealth along its value chain.
“Nigeria’s first attempt at exporting yam was by Nasarawa state government in 2009 with 8.5 metric tonnes on 8th June 2009 and within the same month, another 66 metric tonnes were exported in two shipments. The next state that attempted was Oyo state but without success.
“It was only in 2017 that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of Chief Audu Ogbeh, OFR, then Honourable Minister Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development organized the first ever flag off the ceremony with a batch of 72 tons to UK and USA. I believed, these were done without proper planning before the execution. Aside from the mentioned attempts, nothing much has been heard of the yam export from Nigeria. It is our duty to find out what went wrong and how to address it in this workshop.
“It, therefore, becomes imperative to put Nigeria in its right position by considering its contribution to global production. In 2020 Nigeria contributed 67% while Ghana 10% to global output. However, Ghana remains the second-highest world exporter of yam for over ten years and the highest in West Africa with 94% of the annual export contribution. Ghana’s income earnings from the export of yam have grown from $18.48m in 2015 to $39.7M in 2021. If Ghana which produces only 10% of global production can earn as much, Nigeria can earn six times more than Ghana based on her production capacity.
“The aim of this meeting is to reawaken our consciousness on the export of yam for national wealth creation, increase income for farmers and job creation.
“This enormous task involves incorporating major stakeholders in the yam value chain, partnering and collaborating with complementary organizations both nationally and internationally, as well as establishing the process and regulations to ensure competitive and profitable yam business.
“This will boost the income and improve the standards of living of yam farmers and bring prosperity to all yam value chain players”.
On his part, the National President, Association of Yam Farmers, Processors, Marketers, and Exporters, Professor Simon Irtwange said Nigeria has been exporting yam but not in the volume expected.
He expressed hope that the workshop will provide solutions to the challenges facing the crop so that Nigeria will not only be the number one in yam production but number in export.
“We have been exporting yam but not in the volume that is expected of the number 1 yam producer in the world, there have been a lot of challenges right from production to packaging, airfreight and sea.
“We are hoping that this workshop will be able to provide solutions to these challenges so that we can take our place not only as the number 1 yam producer but also as number yam exporter”.
Citing some of the challenges facing yam, Professor Irtwange said “at the level of production, you find out that yam production has been manual, is one commodity that has been here with us for a long time using the hoe and a cutlass.
“If we are going to upscale yam production and produce quality yams that will be exportable, then we need to look at our production, bring in mechanisation and we will be able to produce the yam in the size and shape that is required for export because is not every yam tuber that is exportable, and most of our farmers produce ceremonial yams, thinking that is what the export market requires. The export market requires yams that are two kilograms and smooth.
“Another problem is the issue of packaging, we need cartons to package our yams that will make the yam competitive with other countries.
“To see the people that are in charge of the transport end at the value chain are able to bring down their cost, airfares to reduce the cost we pay per kilos. Otherwise, yams from other countries will continue to enjoy that leverage of market share above the Nigerian yam”, he said.
He said the global market is about $13.4bn dollars, but Nigeria is not getting up to 10 per cent.
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