Unlocking Opportunities in the Yam Value Chain
Ninety-two percent (92%) of the world’s production of yam comes from West Africa, with Nigeria alone producing 65% (more than 37 MT), and Ghana producing 12% (more than 6.6 MT). Sadly, 20-30% of this crop goes to waste annually, due to poor post-harvest management. In addition, yam prices rise by over 200% during the growing season, which makes it unaffordable for most consumers, especially when compared to substitutes such as cassava, wheat, and maize. From December 2013 to April 2014, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sahel Capital conducted an in-depth analysis of the yam value chain in Nigeria and Ghana. The contents of this newsletter highlight some of Sahel’s research results.
Improving Yam Processing
Sahel Capital was engaged by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in December 2013 to conduct a study on the landscape for yam value addition opportunities in Nigeria and Ghana, with a focus on processing for food. Sahel Capital conducted interviews with key stakeholders in the agricultural research institutes, private sector (including equipment fabricators, processors, transporters, wholesalers, retailers and farmers’ clusters and associations), NGOs, regulatory agencies, and state and national ministries. In-depth field visits were also conducted in the priority states including Oyo, Niger, Abuja, Ebonyi, Enugu and Lagos in Nigeria, and regions such as Brong Ahafo, Northern, Eastern, and Greater Accra in Ghana. The field research revealed that the level of yam processing in Nigeria and Ghana is relatively low compared to substitute crops such as cassava. This is linked to a range of reasons. In Nigeria, the key challenges to processing include: (1) the high cost of yam, especially the white yam variety used for processing poundo yam, (2) fragmented value chain which limits linkages between farmers and processors, (3) high cost of high quality yam processing equipment and power generation, (4) cumbersome regulatory requirements for certification and product registration, (5) lack of access to affordable financing, and (6) difficulties associated with building a distribution network. Ghanaian and Nigerian processors share similar challenges, with the lack of consumer awareness and inconsistent demand for processed yam products being two additional challenges in the Ghanaian landscape. A collaborative approach towards addressing the barriers to yam processing will transform the yam value chain, thereby improving the livelihoods of thousands of farmers, reducing post-harvest losses and enhancing the availability and affordability of yam products through the release of innovative new products.