On June 29, the Federal Government officially fagged off exportation of yams to Europe and America, in fulfillment of its plan to diversify the economy and earn foreign exchange from non-oil exports.
The yam export initiative would hopefully break the monopoly of Ghana, another West African country which has over the years, dominated the increasingly lucrative yam export trade.
We welcome the yam export initiative and salute the wisdom anded part of its exports from Nigerian producers of the tubers.
At current prices, three Kilogrammes of yams cost $15 in the US, an equivalent of about N5,000, while in the UK, a carton of yams containing three tubers cost 30 Pounds Sterling, about 10 Pounds per tuber. These prices make raw yam export far more attractive than local processing of the commodity.
At this rate therefore, Nigeria hopes to raise additional foreign exchange from yam exports while growing the country’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP).
We urge the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, to forge ahead with this initiative and explore ways of further expanding Nigeria’s yam export capacity through increased local production.
Fears have been expressed in some quarters about the likely food shortages that may result from the massive exportation of yams given that the product remains a staple in most parts of the country.
These fears may be unfounded against the fact that over 30 per cent of yams produced in the country get wasted as a result of either poor storage facilities, low demand or poor transportation facilities among other factors.
The situation is worsened by the inadequate processing factories that could turn the tubers into flour for both local consumption and export to reduce the wastages.
In other to consolidate on this new initiative therefore, we call on the Federal Government to increase the number of yam conditioning centres in the major yam producing states of Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Plateau, Cross Rivers, Kwara, Kaduna, Ekiti, Ondo and Oyo among others to ensure that the yams are properly graded for the export market.
Government should also aggressively support local production of the commodity through micro-credit loans to yam farmers and provision of critical agricultural machines and farm inputs like fertilizers, weed control chemicals among others.
More importantly, Government should work out a more enduring solution to the incessant clashes between Herders and farmers especially in Benue state, which accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the country’s total yam output, as this constitutes the biggest threat to agricultural production in the country in general and yam production in particular.
We congratulate the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development on this feat and the successes being recorded in other aspects of agriculture like the various rice production and processing initiatives, poultry and livestock production, to mention but a few.
If these initiatives are sustained, Nigeria would have truly begun the journey towards diversification of the national economy and hopefully, exit of the recession which has plagued the economy in the last few years.