Whereas Nigeria ranks among the largest producers of yam in the world, yam flour production in Nigeria is very low.
Nigerian States such as Benue, Niger, Cross River etc. are reputed for producing tons of yams annually. Sadly, over 70% of these go to waste.
The level of post harvest losses that farmers experience in Nigeria is quite high.
In fact, because of post harvest losses, farmers are compelled to sell off everything they produce within a very short period.
This harvest period usually experiences glut in the yam market. Hence, the price of yam in the market goes down to ridiculous rates.
I remember once visiting Paiko in Niger State where yam is cultivated heavily. Incidentally, my visit was during the harvest period. It was quite astounding that with N6,000 ($17), I could buy up to 120 tubers of yam.
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Mr. Abdullahi, the farmer i patronized told me that in a couple of days, that amount would buy even up to 150 tubers. The reason: farmers wanted to sell off everything before they got rotten.
While this was the case in Niger state, in Lagos State, the commercial capital of Nigeria, N6,000 could only buy 12 (a tenth of 120) tubers of yam.
I returned to Niger state three months after that amazing harvest period. The experience was again ridiculous. This time, N6,000 could only buy 15 tubers of yam.
Why The Price Differential?
The obvious reason for such huge price differential during harvest and after harvest is lack of storage facilities.
Had it been those farmers had access to proper storage facilities, they wouldn’t be such in a hurry to sell off the commodities at such ridiculous prices.
They would have stored them and sold them at even more reasonable prices later on.
That would have increased their revenue and helped lift them and their families out of extreme poverty which they were obviously wallowing in.
Again, if they had a way of converting those commodities to higher value products, they would have made a ton of money off their sweat.
The Case for Yam Flour Production in Nigeria
One of the easiest ways of adding value to yam is by converting yam tubers to yam flour. Yam flour is the flour used in the quick preparation of pounded yam, a popular food in Nigeria.
Isn’t it sad that whereas Nigeria losses tons of yam tubers to post harvest losses, we are still importing yam flour.
There is no way we can move up the global value chains in yam if we don’t focus on yam flour production.
Billions of dollars are made annually in the yam industry, but, what we get is pittance. Why? Because we have failed to add value to yam.
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What pathways to moving up the yam value chain
If we must move up the value chain in the yam sector, we must do the following:
Provide farmers with agricultural inputs like fertilizer, improved seedlings, pesticides etc.
Educate farmers through proper extension services on efficient cultivation methodology.
Provide weather information and guide farmers on how to manage climate related risk and adopt climate smart methods.
Make available infrastructure such as roads, rail, electricity, water, ICT etc. in the rural communities where these yams are cultivated in abundance.
Institute fiscal incentives for yam flour production businesses to locate in these rural areas.
By locating in these rural areas, these businesses will help develop the value chain through processing, storage, marketing and distribution of yam derivatives.
Benefits of Increased Yam Flour Production in Nigeria
Say the above strategy is adopted and yam flour production is given a boost:
Local farmers cultivating yams will have direct access to greater markets.
The activities of middlemen will be eliminated leading to more wealth going to the farmers.
More wealth to the farmers means more productivity and increased capacity to employ more hands.
Employment of more hands means reduction in unemployment and poverty.
Yam and its derivatives will be available at affordable prices all year round.
Rural economies will move from zones of economic misery to zones of economic prosperity.
Rural-urban migration will cease.
Nigeria will stop losing foreign exchange to Yam flour import.
Our GDP will increase.
We will be shielded from the macroeconomic shocks occasioned by commodity market price fluctuations.
Indeed, if we must take advantage of our yam production capacity, we must think yam flour production.
Yam flour production will allow us move from the bottom of the global value chains to the top of the value chain.
The time to act is now!
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