The United Nations Food Agency has said Nigeria produces over 60% of the world’s yam, which could be harnessed if the Nation is to diversify her oil-driven economy and boost foreign income.
Oil has been the source of Nigeria’s revenue since its discovery in 1956, contributing about 40.86% to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, (GDP).
The global slump in oil prices has reinforced the need to diversify Nigeria’s economy.
According to the United Nations Food Agency, Nigeria produces more than 60% of yams consumed in the world. Amazingly it is not one of the world’s top exporters.
Ghana produces far less than Nigeria, but exports more yams to European countries than Nigeria does.
Following this discrepancy, Nigeria launched a yam export scheme earlier this year, with hopes that exportation of more yams will help diversify its oil-dependent economy.
“It’s our biggest hope,” says Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Audu Ogbeh.
The government also seeks to involve youths into the programme as well as encourage farmers and traders to boost exports, with Europe and the US being major the focus.
‘We are happy and excited. Exporting yam is a big opportunity to expand our business and we are ready to export. The country will benefit too,” says Saleh Adamu Asiri, a local yam trader in the town of Agyaragu, a yam-producing community in Central Nasarawa state.
Although the yam export scheme is a government initiative, it is being driven by the private sector, with state is only responsible for making inter-governmental agreements with importing countries.
However, there have been some challenges.
”I have been able to export 76 tonnes of yam to the US,” says Prince Vincent Yandev Amaabai, a yam exporter. “The main challenge is funding.”
“So if government can encourage banks to assist us, and liaise with the freight companies to bring down the price for us – that will be better.”
He added that the high cost of preserving and transporting the commodity abroad have hindered more profits being made.
It costs more than $10, 000 to ship 30 tonnes of yams to the US and the transportation takes about 40 days resulting in decay of some yams.
Since the launch of the scheme in June, a little over 200 tonnes have been exported to Europe and America, a fraction of the 60 million tonnes produced yearly, with more than 30% of Nigeria’s yams rotting away due to poor preservation.
However, some have opined that yams should be processed locally in Nigeria, considering the challenges of exporting it.
Reacting to this suggestion, Mr. Ogbeh said ‘‘Fantastic idea! But ask them how much it costs to set up a yam flour processing factory”
“We have obstacles in our economic ambitions. When we stabilise, and when electricity and interest rates become more reasonable and repayable, Nigerians can try that.”
Mr. Ogbeh added that for now, exporting raw yam is the best course.
So can Nigeria’s government really bring in more than $6 billion every year with yam exports and create thousands of jobs, as it has claimed?
‘Yes, and not only yam. Other items are going to follow but yam is going to be our major hope,’’ says Mr Ogbeh.
The economy of Liberia is heavily reliant on its agriculture which accounts for 76.9% of the West-African country’s GDP; the highest in the world. The agricultural sector is the largest employer in the country, with the sector accounting for 68% of the labour force.
The leading cash crop in Liberia is Rubber with the country producing over 35,000 tons each year. Another important crop in Liberia is palm oil with an annual production of 42,000 tons. Due to Liberia’s reliance on agriculture, the country had an agricultural trade surplus of $14million in 2001.
The second most agricultural-reliant country in the world is Somalia with the agricultural sector accounting for 60.2% of the East-African country’s GDP.
The most important sector of the Guinea-Bissau economy is the agricultural sector which accounts for 55.8% of the country’s GDP. The colonial influence of the Portuguese in Guinea-Bissau is still prevalent with the major commercial crops of the country brought by the Portuguese including cashew nuts. Cashew nuts are the most important commercial crop in Guinea Bissau, with the country producing about 60,000 tons annually.
Countries dependent on Agriculture Agriculture GDP (%)
Central African Republic 53.1
Sierra Leone 51.5