The Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria has assured Nigerians of increased yam production in 2018 so as to boost the yam export initiative of the Federal Government.
The Acting President of the association, Prof Simon Irtwange, gave the assurance in an interview in Abuja recently. He said farmers had been mobilized to increase their production in order to make provision for the local consumption and export requirements.
Irtwange, who is also the Chairman of 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 after harvests.
He said yam exporters, instead of going to markets to buy yams, could procure the yams from the aggregators who already knew the standards for exportable yams.
He said the committee was partnering with the Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, for the production of seedlings of exportable yams so as to boost the production of the yams and encourage farmers.
“I will not agree that export has anything to do with the 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 purely for local consumption.
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“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.
“We have already selected the yam varieties we want to promote for export but the seedlings for those varieties are the major challenge right now.
“So we have gone into partnership with Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike. They will produce the seedlings for us and 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 rotted away because of poor preservation techniques, said that 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.
“The essence of the trials is to see where there are challenges, so that we can see how to solve the problems.
“Now, we have known what the challenges are and we are going to face them squarely.
“We have all learnt our lessons and we think that this year, the yam export programme is going to be better than what it was last year,’’ he added.