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Opinions of Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Columnist: Zuberu Aliu

The cry of yam farmers in Ghana

The Ghana Yam Sector Development Strategy was formulated in 2012 at the behest of the Government of Ghana. It was to support the development of the yam sector in terms of production, value addition and commercialization. The strategy was a public-private initiative and championed by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The aim of the sector strategy according to Hon. Haruna Iddrisu “was to assist all the value chain actors to lift up the industry and position yam from Ghana as “food for the world”.

The Yam Sector Development Strategy has identified the numerous challenges affecting the yam sector-lower returns for farmers, post-harvest losses and huge capital requirement. The cry by yam farmers especially in the Northern Region in the last quarter of 2016 to date has been loud. The price of yam has significantly declined and many farmers risk losing their investments.

What accounts for the sharp decline in the price of yam? It has not been that easy stating what might be responsible for the decline in the price of yam. However, the issue of demand and supply cannot be left out. Also, the usual NDC-NPP politics will not go away. Some political actors allegedly blamed the lower prices for yam on the NPP administration since yams appear to be competing with cocoa. Others also alleged that the declining prices are the result of the NDC corrupt dealings that has breached some international trade convention.

Regrettably, the farmers are the losers in this game and some positive moves must be looked at to make the sector thrive. The focus of the Nana Addo-Bawumia led administration is to create jobs for Ghanaians and the yam sector has the potential to create a number of jobs. As an immediate measure, the Government of Ghana should address the challenges associated with the exportation of yam. It takes a long time to ship yams to the international market. The delay usually causes the yams to get rotten. But shipping the commodity is one possible way to get large quantities out compare to using cargo planes.

Another way to address the sector challenges is for stakeholders to create demand for yam locally. It is a fact that yam can be processed into different edible products including flour, starch, cakes and biscuits. If public-private partnerships direct attention to adding value to yam, then farmers will need to up their game to even satisfy the home market.

It’s expected that all stakeholders will work together to improve the lots of yam farmers across the country. In pursuit of this goal, it is urgent for government to look at the Ghana Yam Sector Development Strategy. Attention should be on improving yield and creating market for yams.

Zuberu Aliu

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