The Yam Growers Association of Nigeria (YAGAN) has accused the Federal Government of neglecting the country’s yam farmers in its nascent yam export drive.
Alhaji Shuaibu Idris, the President of the association, expressed the viewpoint on Tuesday in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.
He said that the government had failed to carry the association along in its yam export initiative.
He underscored the need to involve YAGAN in all the processes of the yam export programme, saying that its contribution to the success of the initiative should not be underestimated.
“We are the growers and the producers, we know where it pinches and what to do to fill the gaps; everything is not about research alone, we should be considered relevant to the project,’’ he said.
Idris noted that the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme (TCNYEP), in its assignment, liaised with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI) and other relevant stakeholders.
He then wondered why the committee failed to obtain the input of YAGAN in working out a framework.
He described the yam export drive as a laudable policy which should be embraced as the yam exportation would boost the country’s economy.
He, nonetheless, stressed that the association ought to have been contacted for its input and support to ensure adequate yam supplies for both exports and local consumption.
“YAGAN is not against the government’s policy but since we are the yam producers; it is, therefore, not out of place for the government to call us for discussions on the processes of yam production and exports.
“Does government farm? We are the farmers and our contribution will go a long way to sustain the venture,’’ he said.
Idris, however, said that the venture would be successful if the government could support the development of commercial yam farms across the country.
He said that government’s intervention was somewhat imperative, considering the huge investments involved in initiating successful commercial farming ventures.
“Nigerian farmers are ageing, they are not strong enough to feed the nation; what they produce now is in small quantity, which is not enough to facilitate the development of commercial agriculture in the country and sustain produce exports.’’
Idris noted that the country farmers were facing myriad challenges, even in producing the food for domestic consumption and particularly now when the food export was involved.
He called on the government to provide the necessary incentives to attract more young men and women into agriculture, saying that farming should be considered as a means of livelihood.
“The challenges cannot be shouldered by farmers or farmers’ associations alone; there is a need for government intervention; government should provide basic infrastructure such as irrigation systems and electricity to boost food security and internal security.
“Government ought to develop access roads to farms, reduce tariffs on imported farm machinery, provide competitive agro-financial loans, while awakening Nigeria Agricultural Insurance Company to its responsibilities against disasters,’’ he said.
Idris, however, said that even though farmers associations were striving to shoulder many responsibilities in order to contribute to the nation’s food security and development; yet the huge costs involved was weighing down their efforts.
Also, Prince Uke Ubaka, a farmer and top official of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), described the yam export initiative as a worthwhile policy that would boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings but warned about its sustainability.
He said that that this was not the first time that Nigeria would be exporting yam to UK.
“The first time was in 2003 when AFAN, in conjunction with the Nasarawa State Government, exported some tubers of yam to Britain after understudying Ghana.
“The export led to the promotion of so many Nigerian foods at the farmers’ markets in UK and the Americas,’’ he said.
Ubaka stressed that now that the programme had been revived, government should carry out market feasibility studies so as to ascertain the requirements of the consumers and ensure steady supply.
He, however, warned against undue bureaucracy, insisting that the government should not drive the programme.
“It is okay for the government to champion the programme but I suggest that government should refrain from driving it so that bureaucracy will not kill the laudable programme.
“It is left for government to sustain the creation of markets internationally and adequately monitor the transactions so as to earn more revenue via tariffs,’’ he said.
Ubaka also advised government to sanitise and improve the markets, so that they would not be saturated to become open markets and dumping grounds for all sorts of produce.
NAN recalls that in fulfilment of the economic diversification policy of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, Nigeria officially kick-started the yam export initiative by exporting 72 tonnes of yam to Europe on June 29.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, launched the yam export at Lillypond Container Terminal in Ijora, Lagos.