By Oladipupo Mojeed
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has stated that the federal government is strategising to surpass Ghana in the export of yam to Europe and other continents.
The minister made this known when he received the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme in Abuja.
Ogbeh, who assured that here is no need to panic about the non-availability of yams for Nigerians to consume said this would enable the country earn foreign exchange from agricultural produce in order to substitute the oil and gas sector.
According to him, Ghana is exporting yams but Nigeria is not, but it account for 61 percent of the world yam production.
“There is no need to panic about the non-availability of yams for Nigerians to consume. There has never been shortage of yams in Nigeria.”
According to him over 30% of the yams produced in Nigeria rot away.
“Export therefore provides opportunities to earn foreign exchange and produce more yams.
“If nearby Ghana that does not grow anywhere near one tenth of the yams we grow, is targeting $4bn in yam exports, we can do better.
“The export of Nigerian yams is not new. It has just been going on through other ports and largely unaccounted for, due to sharp practices.
“According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, Nigeria accounts for 61% of yam production in the world.”
He also stated that Nigeria has no reason not to engage in and benefit from this profitable trade in view of our large production capacity.
“We cannot diversify our economy if we do not explore new ways of creating wealth and earning foreign exchange especially in items on which we have competitive advantage and superior production capacity. There is no need to panic!
“Let us focus on the opportunities, as we partner with our development partners to create storage facilities to minimize post-harvest losses.
“As we work on other exportable agro commodities, we are working on mechanized methods for the production of yam heap to ease the burden of yam production and review its standards to ensure local improvement and global acceptability.
“To diversify our economy through Agriculture, we cannot, but support this private sector initiative and drive for our Agro commodity export.”
He said the federal government is targeting about eight billion dollars as annual foreign exchange from the exportation of yams to other countries.
Speaking, Prof. Simon Irtwange, the Chairman of the committee said that the committee was working with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) to train farmers and also improve some yam varieties.
The chairman said the committee had prepared a four-year action plan for the yam value chain programme in the country.
He solicited for better funding for the committee, which was private sector-led, to commence the programme.
“We have standards that we are following and they have to do with pytho-sanitary requirements to meet international standards.
“We have combined the standards of Ghana and Nigeria to make sure our yams are not rejected at the international markets,” he said.