The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) Ibadan Export Assistance office has advised yam farmers in Oyo State on the best practices in global yam export.
The advice came during training organised for yam farmers by the NEPC in Kishi, Oyo State recently during which yam farmers were trained by agricultural experts.
The technical workshop titled ‘Good agricultural practices, post-harvest handlings and packaging of yam for export’ featured 525 yam farmers and off-takers in and around the south West states.
Facilitating a session, a technical expert from the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Professor Abdulganiyu Raji, advised the participants to always observe the right protocols in planting, harvesting and storing yams.
“We can plant in three ways; we can plant on the ground like we have been doing, we can plant in water known as hydroponics, we can plant in the bags. We have seen people who planted 2,000 yams in bags in their homes,” he said.
Raji added that the IITA has continued to develop yam seedlings that have the capacity to withstand pests and diseases.
“We are planning to help develop more yam seedlings that will not have diseases and pests that destroy yams. The seedlings we have developed do not accommodate pests.
“We have over 100,000 of these yam seedlings now. We are still continuing the research to see what we can add more to improve them,” he said.
Talking about packaging, he said farmers must be vast in yam packaging because yam market is particular about packaging.
“Consumers in the countries our farmers export to don’t eat yams in pounded yam or amala form like we do; they eat in smaller kilograms. They want just 1kg which can only be sufficient for a family of four. If the yams are over 1kg they would not buy except for our people over there,” he added, advising exporters to mind the kilogrammes they package.
In his lecture titled: ‘Good agricultural practices and packaging to meet demands of the export markets’, Akindele Ogunfunmilayo from the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services (NAQS), Oyo State provided education on what yam farmers need to scale through the NAQS inspection.
“Different countries have their yam specifications and Nigerian yam exporters must understand this. If you don’t meet conditions of the country you are exporting to, there will be a problem, so you must know what each country needing yams wants,” he said.
Continuing he said: “Those countries you are sending the yams to don’t want marks on the yams, they want it well packaged and rats must not have access to your yams.
“The yams must not get rotten and it must not be infected before getting to destination. It must not be contaminated. Packaging is very important.”
Answering questions on why NAQS must inspect the yams,
Ogunfunmilayo said: “The agency must inspect not just because of pests but for diseases. Yams going on export must be well inspected. They must not have any disease and we have to duly document.
“Once we inspect and the yams are good to go, we will issue a certificate. If you don’t have this certificate, you will encounter difficulties at the destination.
“Some countries were not asking for the certificates before but things have since changed. So you must have certificate from quarantine service.”
However, he added that the yams must be uniform in size and colour as well as must be duly labeled to indicate details like nutritional contents and net weight so they are not sent back from the destination.
An off-taker at the event and the CEO, Jimest Foods Limited, Abuja, Mrs. Esther Adebayo, demonstrated how to properly package yam in cartons for export.
Adebayo, who exports yams to the United States of America lamented: “Our farmers don’t know the channels to use in exporting their yams.” She added that, “The extension workers who are supposed to enlighten farmers are not enlightened about the planting, fertilizer application, harvesting and storage.”
Adebayo added: “Before I was given permission to export, I went through stages of preparation and learning. I observed all the protocols. For instance during raining season, you need to use wet foam to mop the tubers to remove sand from them.
You must use soft foam because the yams must not peel. If they get peeled, they are disqualified.”
The Trade Promotion Advisor, NEPC, Ibadan Export Assistance Office, Mrs. Bolanle Emmanuel, who enjoined the farmers to cooperate among themselves so they can enjoy maximum benefit from information being disseminated by the NEPC.
“The Nigerian Export Promotion Council is saddled with the responsibility of promoting non-oil export and yam being an agricultural produce in high demand around the world must be promoted. That is why we have brought experts to lecture our yam farmers,” she said.
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