By Ginika Okoye
Some yam exporters to Europe and the U.S. have decried negative reports about the produce, saying it is de-marketing Nigerian yams in the international market.
The exporters spoke at a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, in Abuja on Friday.
They said the reports were putting Ghana at an advantage over Nigeria on yam exportation at the international market.
Prof. Simon Irtwange, the Chairman, Technical Committee on Nigerian Yam Export, said the reports were detrimental to the image of the country.
Irtwange said the committee was working to ensure adherence to standards to meet international best practices on yam export.
Mr John Okakpu, a yam exporter and Managing Director, Abx World, appealed to the Federal Government to address the large number of regulatory agencies at the ports.
Okakpu noted that a reduction in the number of agencies checking yam export at the ports would lessen logistics, cost of exportation and encourage more entrants into the business.
The exporter noted that the country could earn over N350 billion foreign exchange from yam exports if the bottlenecks faced by exporters were addressed.
“I want to use this opportunity to beg the government; there are so many agencies in the ports that do not have any business being there.
“Apart from the Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, all the other agencies are just creating problems,’’ he said.
Another exporter, Mr Yandev Amaabai, expressed regret that there were no conditioning centres for storing yams at favourable temperatures before exportation.
He appealed to the Federal Government to assist exporters in providing conditioning centres to prolong the shelf life of yams.
Amaabai also decried bureaucracy at the ports and said such bottlenecks were hindering efforts to meet demands and targets at the international markets.
He called for a one stop shop for all agencies with the responsibility of checking the produce before export.
“In the U.S., what they require from us is just the phyto-sanitary certificate from the quarantine.
“After I got the certificate, it was over within 24 hours. All these negative stories are just to discourage people.
“The challenge we have is transport from our various destinations to the ports. We need temperature regulated vehicles, this is the kind of support we should be asking from government,” Amaabai said.
Mr Tunde Okoya, of Lange and Grante, a Cold Chain Operator, said the company specialised on the production of insulated panel cold chain.
According to him, Nigeria has only 45,000 cubic metres of cold chain facilities while India has over 300 million cubic metres.
He stressed the need for the pre-cooling of yams from the farm gate before transporting it to reefer containers for export to avoid a break in the cold chain.
“This means that we require cold chain to build refrigerators and conditioning centres.
“If we just encourage our farmers to plant and grow food but they cannot store what they plant properly, it is going to waste,’’ he advised.
Mr Adewale Ajadi, the Country Director, Synergos, said the country had yet to explore the potential in yams.
He said the company would invest in establishing a conditioning centre in Benue to make yam preservation easy and avoid rejection of the produce in the international market.
Ogbeh promised that the Federal Government would address some of the challenges raised by the exporters to facilitate the export of yams to Europe and the U.S.
There were reports that Nigerian yams exported to the U.S. were rejected.
The exportation of yams to the U.S. and Europe was launched on June 29.