By Tunde Osho
The Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria is promising increased yam production to support the Federal Government’s yam export initiative.
Its Acting President, Prof Simon Irtwange, in an interview in Abuja, said farmers had been mobilised to increase their production to provide for consumption and export.
Irtwange, who chairs the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme, said efforts were made to build the capacity of yam aggregators to buy exportable yams in large quantities from farmers.
He said exporters, instead of going to markets, could procure yams from the aggregators who knew exportable yams’ standards.
He said the committee was partnering the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, for the production of exportable yams’ seedlings to boost the production.
“I will not agree that export has anything to do with local production because not every yam variety can be exported.
“The ones that are exportable are the ones that meet export standards. The export requirements include 2kg. yams that are slender and smooth, while the non-export yams are for consumption.
“We have also encouraged yam production; this year, we would have more output than what we had in the previous year because farmers are now sensitised and they have gone into massive production. So, there will be enough yams for the local market and export,” Irtwange said.
He said the association had selected the yam varieties it wanted to promote for export but getting their seedlings was a major challenge.
This, he said, was why the association was partnering the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, to produce the seedlings. He added that the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is also involved in the project.
“After production, we have aggregators who will off-take the yams from the farmers and will aggregate for the exporters,’’ he said.
Irtwange, who noted that over 20 per cent of exportable yams often rot away because of poor preservation techniques, said aggregators would have cooling systems for the produce.
“Concerning the aggregators, what we require from them is that they will have warehouses, they will have cooling systems and they will store the yams under the correct temperature.
“Through that way, we can also give assurance of the quality of what we are exporting.
“The assurance is that we have done the trials, we have learnt from our mistakes and we have put in place measures to correct all the drawbacks,” Irtwange said.
According to him, the essence of the trials was to see where there are challenges so that the association can address them.