The Voices for Food Security (VFS) Campaign heartily commends the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and particularly the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the giant stride of turning one of Nigeria’s major staple crops (yam) into an exportable cash crop as part of the move to diversify the economy and increase the country’s agricultural export base. To us, this is in line with the extant policies of the present administration of President Buhari particularly the Green Alternative – The Agricultural Promotion Policy (2016-2020). Specifically it is a step aimed at deepening the philosophy of farming as a business and further developing markets for Nigeria’s agricultural commodities that have the potential to attract foreign exchange.
Indeed, VFS observes the importance of yam to food security and livelihood of Nigerians, particularly to the farming population, and also notes that Nigeria is the world largest producer of yam with an annual production of about 40 million metric tons, accounting for 70% of world yam production. VFS regrets that despite this position, the country has not been earning foreign exchange from the commodity, while countries like Ghana and Cote d’voire that produce far less quantity of yam have been dominating the international market with yam and getting significant foreign exchange from the commodity, and perhaps sourcing their yam from Nigeria.
VFS notes that in the recent time, selected Nigeria’s agricultural commodities have been facing some level of rejection at the international market due to issues related to sanitary and phytosanitary standards. That Nigeria has been granted the license to export yam is therefore an indication that the country is overcoming some of the issues that act as impediments to becoming a major player in the international trade arena with respect to agricultural commodities.
VFS believes that this giant stride will stimulate increased production of yam among farmers in the medium to long term, encourage private sector participation in the yam value chain, initiate more research on yam and encourage special government interventions on the yam value chain; but equally observes that the smallholder farmers who constitute the bulk of yam producers in Nigeria are challenged by poor access to formal credit and lack of modern farming tools and equipment – all of which must be addressed. VFS underscores that although there are speculations of a momentary increase in the domestic price of yam, however, on the long run, it is expected that the increase in price will trigger increase in productivity.