Yam farmers in the Kintampo area of the Brong Ahafo Region are in distress over annual investment losses emanating from poor sales of production during bumper harvests as a result of the perennial glut that has characterised yam production.
Every year, between August-October, heaps of yam running into thousands of metric tonnes are common features in communities producing primarily for the domestic market; thereby, with the fear of them getting rotten, farmers are compelled to release at low prices.
The annual surfeit of yam has been attributed to the inability of farmers to export their produce to the major international markets (EU and USA) to complement domestic sales. It has been established that farmers are unable to go to the huge international yam market -- where Ghana’s yam is believed to be well sought-after -- simply because farmers are not competent enough to meet export specifications of quality and size due to the lack of technical support.
Most Ghanaian farmers are still stuck in the traditional way of cultivating yam, which makes their produce unfit to meet the international yam export specifications. This is due to the lack of technical knowledge in the new ridging technology for cultivating exportable yam.
Mr. Emmanuel Okrah, Secretary of the Kintampo Yam Farmers Association, in an interview with B&FT said a BUSAC-funded research revealed that the Crop Research Institute (CRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has developed a yam seed variety suitable for export, but it is not accessible to about 95% of the yam-farming population.
He pointed out that yam farmers are very interested in the export business, but find themselves in a tight corner that restricts them from exploring the available market opportunities. The situation, according to him, not only affects farmers but even more so exporters -- who incur huge costs moving around the country sorting out yam to select the few exportable ones for their consignments.
“Though it is on record that Ghana is one of leading yam exporters, having exported 20,841 metric tonnes of yam in 2008, with increasing global demand for yam -- especially in Europe, U.S. and some neighboring African countries, there is potential for higher production and export volumes.
“Production technology gaps, inadequate access and high cost of seed-yam have limited the export capacity of producers, despite the availability of fertile land and demand for yam domestically and abroad,” he observed.
Mr. Okrah, on behalf of colleague Farmers, appealed to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to as a matter of urgency make technologies and products of research institutions such as CRI available to them to help alleviate their plight, adding: “Yam is an extremely vital crop, not only to the domestic market but also to the export market. Domestically, it is not only a major source of income, but also a staple crop vital to food security.”
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