Barely one week ago the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, assured Nigerian farmers of the Federal Government’s plan to end post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities in the country. However, Plateau State farmers have raised the alarm over excessive heat that is destroying their seedlings for the planting season. Taiwo Hassan reports
Last week at a virtual inauguration and handing over of the 200,000-capacity yam storage facility at the Zaki Biam International Yam Market in Benue State, the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said that post-harvest losses due to poor storage facilities for the nation’s agriculture produce would soon be a thing of the past.
No doubt, this is indeed cherring news for Nigerian farmers, mostly yam farmers in the country, who have been battling excessive heat on their yam because of lack of storage facilities, thereby making them lose billions of naira.
In fact, yam farmers are facing severe post-harvest losses. The reason for this is not far-fetched as yam is the pride of Africa and Nigeria the largest producer in the continent.
But sadly, the yam farmers have not been rewarded adequately for their hard work amid inadequate storage facilities, which has led to huge post-harvest losses.
Yam export rejections
In addition, of late, the country has also suffered huge rejection in export to international markets, especially countries like the United States and United Kingdom.
Particularly, Nigerian yam exporters have had some of their consignments rejected by these two countries in the past due to non-availability and functionality of modern storage facilities, especially in Benue State, which is the highest producer of yam in Nigeria.
While reacting to the country’s yam export rejection at the international market, the Chairman of the Technical Committee on Yam Export, Prof. Simon Irtwang, disclosed that because of the challenges facing yam quality, the committee had embarked on a tour of major markets, particularly those in the South-West to ascertain the quality of the yams at hand for export.
According to him, the Federal Government is doing everything possible to ensure that yam rejection is not associated with export of the commodity again.
“Not all species of yam are good for export. So, yam farmers and traders need to know the species that are good for export. They also need to know how to select, store and preserve them to increase their freshness and ability to stay long without decaying.
“We also have to let yam farmers know the seed yams they will plant that will be good for export,” Irtwang said.
Yam preservation improvement
Piqued by the huge financial losses due to excessive heat in yam storage, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, called on agricultural engineers to proffer modern techniques and innovations to improve the preservation of yam in the country.
The vice-chancellor made this request while receiving representatives of
Nigerian Institute of Agricultural Engineers (NIAE) in his office at the university campus.
Prof. Abdulkareem said that the unavailability of modern innovations was the reason good quality yam is barely available after its harvest season.
He indicated that these new techniques would make yam wastage a thing of the past and improve yield.
“Agricultural engineers should make life easier for farmers. It is a shame that farmers still have to climb the palm tree in this age to tap wine in spite of the technology available to us.
“You should ensure that farming is technologically-driven by coming up with indigenous solutions that will be cheap; yet serves the same purpose as the foreign technology,’’ Abdulkareem said.
The vice-chancellor also advised NIAE to utilise the technology that can be sourced locally as this will contribute to the wealth of farmers.
However, latest report showed that yam farmers, especially those in Southern Plateau, are crying out for help as the region is seriously witnessing heat on their seedlings.
The farmers lamented that the shortage of rain, currently being experienced in the area, had already caused them a huge loss as most of the planted yam seeds had become rotten due to lack of rain and excessive heat.
Alhaji Zakari Yusuf, a yam farmer in Yelwa community in Shendam LGA, said: “I have lost over N2.5 million worth of yam seeds as a result of shortage of rain. I am pleading to government to come to our aid with support especially loans to enable us replant.”
Miskoom Yaandem, a seasoned yam farmer in Kufayi village of Yelwa, also lamented the huge loss he incurred due to drought.
“It is one of the biggest losses I have ever recorded in my farming business. More than N300, 000 worth of yam seeds I planted got damaged due to the drought.”
Also commenting, Shaldet Andrews, a yam farmer in Mikang Local Government Area, said: “I have suffered more than N3 million loss due to the shortage of rainfall. We appeal to the government to come to our aid with a view to providing us with necessary support.”
Mallam Isa Waziri and Alhaji Abdulrazak Rangmen both yam and groundnut farmers in Yelwa said they had recorded huge losses in both groundnut and yam farms as a result of the drought.
Despite the rainy season in some parts of the country, some states are yet to experience it, signaling a likelihood of food scarcity post-COVID-19.