Yam Farming

HOW FARMERS CAN MAXIMISE ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF YAM

Experts have advised Nigerian yam farmers to explore various opportunities to add value to the produce and in the process, increase their profitability and sustainability. This comes as the country’s position as the largest producer of the tuber crop could become counter-productive if the situation is not well managed.

Experts believe that, like in cassava, production of abundant yam without storage facilities and industrial utilisation could lead to gluts. Gluts, they argued, could lead to discouragement and down-scaling of yam production in the country. If Nigeria has not got it right in the quantity of any other crop, it has in the production of root and tuber crops, and it can do better. According to the data released by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in November, the country leads in yam production, accounting for about 60 per cent of the world production yearly.

Yam and cassava are consumed in Africa and around the world, and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has acknowledged their roles in food security, income generation to farmers and national economies. Despite the country’s lead in production, there are challenges retarding productivity, value addition and maximisation of its economic benefits, like cassava.

Value addition:
One of the ways farmers can economically increase their profit from yam cultivation, and by extension sustainability, is by drying the products. Farmers who add no value to their tubers of yam are forced to sell at give-away prices by the forces of demand and supply at harvest. This challenge is part of the poor post-harvest management of crops by farmers, reducing profitability and hampering sustainability.

Farmers can add value to yam by washing, peeling, steaming and drying the tubers and subsequently grinding such into yam flour. This is eaten as amala by Yorubas and other Nigerians.

Prof Sanni Lateef, former Deputy Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said the best approach the farmers could use to justify their labour and investments with good returns is to embrace value addition. This, he explained, could be done by processing tubers of yam into pounded yam flour. The process include washing, peeling, boiling, grinding and flash-drying in approved premises. Another way, he said, is yam powder for amala.

Yam fries, fresh yam and many other products could be sold to international marketplaces, especially in Africa, where free trade is now allowed with the signatory of the country in the agreement. Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa (YIIFSWA) of the IITA also advocates a holistic value chain approach starting from viable and disease-free yam seed production using aeroponic technologies that have proved better than traditional means of seed multiplication. YIIFSWA places emphasis on post-harvest value addition, packaging and shelf life longevity using scientifically proven techniques for income maximaistion by farmers.

Means of value addition:
A fabricator in the value chain of root and tuber crops, Mr Idowu Adeoya, said there are many ways to process yam into dried matters for extended shelf life and greater profitability. Traditional ways, he explained, include peeling, washing, steaming and sun-drying. Many small-scale farmers have been doing this and more of them should do so to maximize profit from yam cultivation.

The other and better way, he said, is the use of modern technologies such as flash dryers. This way, yam could be boiled, grinded and flash-dried. The product id packaged as pounded yam powder, prepared and eaten home and abroad.

A farmer and yam processor in Oyo State, Mr Soye Oyeleye, disclosed to The Guardian that processing his tubers of yam into yam flour for amala makes his margin higher yearly. He said farmers do harvest their yam tubers between August and November, and this makes the marketplaces saturated with yam, forcing price down drastically. As a strategy against give-away prices, he processes his yam into dried matters and sells between February and June, when more financial value is derived.

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