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Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbe

Nigerians Differ on FG’s Yam Export Move

The recent pronouncement by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe that Nigeria would be exporting yam has been greeted with diverse   reactions. Yemi Akinsuyi, in this report, evaluates the pros and cons of yam exportation by Nigeria.

Yam is one of Nigeria’s staple foods, as well as for   some countries of the world. hich is made into Amala. Yam is also used in making pottage, chips. Even in the South Eastern part of the country, as well as the Middle Belt Region of the country also referred to as North Central, it is used in preparing some form of soup. Yam can be used in a variety of cuisines, either as boiled, baked, fried and even roasted. It can also be used in the preparation of cakes, muffin and bread.  You can also puree cooked yam or can add chunks of yam to your roasted vegetables or meat.  You can also use yam as a supplement in capsule form. It works really well especially for women’s health as it helps to support the female system.

Yams are available all year around but are mainly harvested in the month of August. Nigeria and Ghana celebrate New Yam festivals every year with great pomp.

Tubers of yam in a barnThere are various varieties of yam. They vary from  white to light pink in colour while  some are even available in yellow colour. Cooked yam has an earthy taste with slight sweetness.

Apart from its edibility, yam has been used as a traditional medicine in China, Korea and Japan for over centuries. It contains allantoin, a cell proliferate that expedites the healing process when applied topically on ulcers, boils and other skin diseases. Its decoction is also known to stimulate and relieve bronchial irritation, cough and other respiratory problems

It is a good source of Vitamin B6 which is needed by the body to break down a substance called homocysteine, which can damage blood vessels walls High levels of homocysteine can also lead to heart attack despite having low levels of cholesterol. Thus, having a good supply of Vitamin B6 in the body is believed to reduce the risk of developing heart diseases. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids and controls heart rate and blood pressure by countering the hypertensive effects of sodium. Low intake of potassium-rich food can also lead to hypertension. Dioscorin, a storage protein found in yam is known to benefit people suffering from hypertension. Dioscorin inhabits aniotensin converting enzyme which therefore leads to increased kidney flow and reduced blood pressure.

Yam is particularly useful for menopausal women.  It contains an enzyme that provides a natural alternative to hormonal replacement in women who have reached menopause. Wild yam is also known to support the female endocrine system. Its root has been traditionally used in conjunction with lactation. Vitamin B6 is an important supplement for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) in women, especially the depression that is triggered by it.

It is a good tonic for the female system as it helps to balance the hormones. Yam is an herb which can help to heal the bodily conditions from a holistic standpoint. It supports the body and stimulates it to heal.

Yam contains healthy antioxidants which also have anti inflammatory properties. The beta carotene and Vitamin C in this tuber work well to get rid of cancer-friendly free radicals The dietary fibre present in yam reduces constipation and decreases bad cholesterol. It contains good amount of potassium which aids in healthy digestion (8) and stimulates smooth muscle contraction in the stomach for proper bowel habits.

Daily consumption of yam juice can increase nutrient absorption of the body. It also protects valuable enzymes needed by the body for healthier cells and maintains the good condition of the body. By drinking yam juice, all the vitamins and nutrients of it can be easily absorbed by the body in its liquid form.

That is not all. Yams also have the ability to increase learning and memory capacity in the human brain. According to a study, people who consumed yam for 6 weeks regularly noticed a significant increase in the cognitive abilities of the subject. This is mainly due to the antioxidant compound present in yams. It can also help to cure Alzheimer’s disease.

Yam can also be viewed as a cancer deterrent especially of colon cancer. The dietary fibre in this tuber prevents colon cancer by preventing toxic compounds in the food from adhering to the colon mucosa (11). Vitamin A in Yam provides protection from lung and oral cavity cancer.

Yams contain complex carbohydrates and fibre which gradually slow the rate at which sugars are released and absorbed in the mainstream. Being high in fibre, yam keeps you full without putting on those extra kilos. Yams are also a good source of manganese, a mineral that aids carbohydrates metabolism and is very important for energy production and antioxidant defence.

The vitamins present in yam mediate various metabolic functions in the body. Carotenes are very essential to convert Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A maintains healthy mucous membranes and skin. It also improves vision. Vitamin C in yam plays an important role in anti-ageing, improves immunity, wound healing and bone growth (13).

The minerals present in yam also play major roles in the body. Copper is very useful for the production of red blood cells and improves blood flow in the body. Iron further improves the blood circulation in the body.

Yam has amazing anti-ageing benefits. It contains amazing skin-friendly nutrients like beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and antioxidants which can help to prevent wrinkles and other signs of ageing.

Yam is considered as an excellent source of natural health promoting compounds like antocyanins and beta carotene. It also contains Vitamin A which is highly beneficial for cell growth, including growth of hair. A deficiency in beta carotene can lead to dry, dull and lifeless hair which flakes off into dandruff.

Vitamin A in yam helps to produce and protect the oil in the scalp. This will keep the scalp hydrated and will prevent hair fall due to breakage. It will also keep the mane silky and shiny. Thus, yam can help to maintain hair and a fabulous scalp.

Yam will also prevent premature greying as it contains a good amount of Vitamin B6 which creates melanin and gives the hair its colour.

Iron in yam helps the red blood cells to carry oxygen and promote blood circulation in the scalp. Low levels of iron in the body can lead to hair loss and baldness in both men and women. Thus, regular consumption of yam will prevent hair loss and will promote hair growth.

The benefit of yam is endless. Hence, the craves for the crop across the world. Bearing this in mind, the Federal Government thought it wise to export yam to other countries where it is not produced locally. Prior to this time, yam has been exported in powdering form. In a simple man’s language, it is called yam powder

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, in a broadcast, announced Federal Government’s plan to begin the exportation of yam tubers to other countries. Ogbe explained that with this new non-oil exportation, the country’s Gross Domestic Growth would be positively affected.

Scarcely has the minister made this announcement that Nigerians came up with different positions on the government’s decision. The controversies that greeted the announcement still leave much to fathom. While some welcomed this , citing the financial benefits it will bring to the Nigerian ailing economy, some were totally against it, stating that the country is currently going through food shortage, which has led to serious hunger.

Reacting to those who expressed fear of food shortages as a result of the move, Ogbeh, in a press briefing dismissed the criticisms of the policy, saying the effort was in the best interest of the nation’s economy. He said the energies being dissipated by critics in condemning the initiative could be better used to produce yam, a staple in most parts of the country.

The Minister allayed the fears of some Nigerians who believed that the policy would lead to shortage of yam in the country. According to him, there is currently a glut in yam production in the domestic market.

He said: “I have seen attacks on the social media. There are questions all over as to why we are exporting yam when Nigerians are said to be hungry. With all due respect, Nigeria accounts for 61 per cent of the world output of yam. We have 60 varieties of yam in this country.

“In fact, 30 per cent of the yams we produce get rotten because we don’t have facilities to preserve them. Ghana is a famous country for exportation of the commodity, but most of the yam they export is from us. There has never been shortage of yam in the country. Prices might be high toward the end of the season, but new yam is already in the market. Why are you so cowardly? Why lay back by not trying anything because of some sentimental reasons that might be raised,’’ the minister asked.

Critics of the policy believe that investment in local processing of yams into finished products is of more economic benefit to the country than exporting the commodity.

But the Minister dismissed this suggestion, arguing that export made more economic sense than processing.

“Analysts are saying that we are supposed to add more value to yam production in order to earn more money, fantastic view. But they forget to tell us how much a tuber of yam costs in the USA. Three kilogrammes cost 15 dollars, which is equivalent to about N5, 000. In London, a carton of yam, this contains three tubers, costs 30 pounds, bringing the average cost per tuber to 10 pounds.”

Speaking on this all important topic, Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose in one of his interviews, advised the Federal Government to provide incentives to yam farmers so as to produce more tubers that would be enough for the local consumption as well as for exportation.

Since one of the major problems facing the much availability of the tubers in Nigeria is lack of storage facilities, the Ekiti governor said silos should be built especially where there are much production of yam across the country,

Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom, in his  submission, called on FG to protect farmers and their farmlands from the ravage of Fulani herdsmen, who have not only destroying their farmlands but also kill these farmers at slightest or no provocation at all.

He said: “Yam exportation is welcome idea and this will help the country in the GDP. But the problem we are facing right now is the ravaging of killers Fulani herdsmen, who have destroyed both food crops and lives of farmers across the country. Federal Government should provide adequate security for the farmers and their farmlands.”

as much as the importation of yam tubers will boost the nation’s GDP, federal government must make sure that hunger is eliminated from the land by providing the needed incentives for food production across the country.

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