With a population estimated at 190 million and a land area of 2,837,000 hectares under yam cultivation, Nigeria accounts for more than 70 per cent of the world production amounting to 17 million tonnes of the product.
Yam is in the class of roots and tubers that are a staple of the Nigerian and West African diet, which provides some 200 calories of energy per capita daily.
Quoting an available report, it stated that, In Nigeria, in many yam-producing areas, it is said that “yam is food and food is yam”.
Although, Nigeria is not one of the world top exporters. Its neighbour, Ghana, produces far less but exports more yams to European countries such as the UK than Nigeria does.
iBrandTV gathered that Yam as food in Nigeria has multiple important social statuses in traditional gatherings and religious functions, which is assessed by the size of yam holdings one possesses.
Although, farmers across the nation have continued to advocate the need to meet the growing demand at its present level of use, as the current production of yam in Nigeria is substantially short.
Nigeria as a country have varieties of yam, for examples, rainy yams in the South West region are Lasinrin and Ewuru, while, dry season yam are Amula and Oju Yawolo, which is majorly demanded by exporters.
iBrandTV investigations revealed that insufficient capital, lack of incentives, the required education on yam farming and constraint in the transportation of products to urban areas due to bad roads, remains the greatest challenges faced by yam farmers.
This development has forced yam dealers across the nation to turn to the federal government for succour.
In an interview with the Oyo State Chairman, National Association of Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers, Chief Gbemisade Adeniyi, he stated that government at all levels needs to help them tackle the challenges, as well as support farmers training on modern farm technologies and provide storage facilities.
In his word: “In our little way, we train farmers on good Agronomy Practice in yam production and let them know that yam is a global profiting commodity.
“We also go for training at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, the mode of planting yam they teach really help a lot as we engage in them. When the farmers are supported adequately, it will help to produce more, thereby reducing the high cost of yam in the market.
“The time for selling and bringing yam to market has passed for those of us here, so it brings high cost of demand and eventual hike in price.
“We are planting now, our harvesting starts from November to February and we believe the high cost of yam will reduce by then.
“We will surely produce to meet up with the demand, reduce scarcity and high cost if we receive adequate support,” Adeniyi said.
Registration of Yam farmers in the 36 states
Meanwhile, in August 2017, Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria commenced the registration of its members across the nation to facilitate the yam export programme.
According to the Acting President of the association, Prof. Simon Irtwange, “We are registering yam farmers, yam processors, yam marketers.”
Irtwange stated that they are registering corporate organisations that are doing yam farming, corporate yam farmers, yam exporters, yam off-takers, yam aggregators and affiliated cooperatives.
Giving a statistic on the arrangement, he stated that a container of yam is about 12,000 tubers and if you have 12,000 to 14,000 tubers as a cooperative, you can export a container.
Although, this development did not go down well with many Nigerians are they have continued to query the necessities of the move when households are already complaining about the availability of the product.
Stakeholders appeals for free duty yam export to Europe
While Nigerians are still battling unravel the move, stakeholders in the yam value chain appealed to the federal government to sign relevant trade agreements with the European Union to facilitate free duty yam export to Europe.
In a communiqué issued at the end of a four-day study tour by Nigerian yam stakeholders to the Republic of Ghana, the stakeholders noted that Nigeria yam export to the UK attracted a duty (tax) of 9.5 Euros per 100 kg, unlike in Ghana where yam farmers and exporters enjoyed free duty.
They also harped on the need for rationalisation of bureaucracy in yam export making provision for only three agencies located under one roof as a one-stop-shop.
Huge profit in yam farming business
Despite this development, Nigeria is still thriving as the highest producer of yam in the world, accounting for 70 to 76 per cent global need, According to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
Although, the COVID-19 pandemic had negatively affected farmers, as most of the labourers they use according to Adeniyi, could not travel from their place (Benin Republic) to Nigeria.
Regardless of these challenges faced by farmers in the sector, available reports show that Nigerian farmers make huge profit in yam farming business.
Adeniyi stated that 500 by 500 meters’ size of farmland could yield 50, 000 tubers of yam, valued at N10 million (50,000 dollars) at one dollar per yam.
“People come from all over Nigeria to buy our yam in Kisi, Igboho, Igbeti and Saki area in Oke Ogun, at least 3 trailer load of yams every day in Obada market, Kisi.
“The good thing is that many who buy also export, it has been a successful business for me as I have been able to build my own hotel in addition to other benefits,” he said.
It is evident that Nigeria can benefit more from this sector if the federal government can holistically Xray the plight faced by farmers and mitigate the gap.
Also, as a nation, stakeholders in the yam value chain need to adopt a systematic approach towards leveraging on the nation’s underground economy, through the expansion of our yielding capacity and thus forcing the price to go down.