As the Federal Government flags off yam exportation, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has expressed its willingness to partner with the Nigerian government in ensuring that the level of losses at the food harvest level are reduced to the barest minimum.
The Director, Research for Development, Western Africa, Mr. Robert Asiedu who said this in a press briefing to mark the 50th anniversary of IITA yesterday in Lagos noted that this had become necessary as the level of losses at the food harvest level were unacceptable.
Asiedu recalled that the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimated that about 30% of the production was lost at that level adding that if this could be curtailed, it would translate to having a lot of yam available both for local consumption and for export purposes.
He said,” Now, the production also, if you look at the average yield of yam currently, the average is around 10 to 11 tonnes per hectare. Really, we should be getting twice that from farmers’ field. So, from our perspective and we have a representative in the technical committee and we are pushing for this, that there should be that support to ensure that the available technological options really flow to the farmers and then they can lift the levels of production, it will reduce the level of losses they are encountering.
“And also, looking at for instance, the availability, the cost and the health status of the seed yam, this is a very critical element that really influences the whole chain. We have a whole range of technologies that will address this very well, so, we hope that working together with government agencies, we will be able to ensure we can export and we can expand even for domestic availability of yam”.
On his part, the Director, System and Site Integration, Mr. Kwesi Attah-Krah said that partnership in this regard was a very good example of what they talked about in relation to alignments to country goals and country strategies adding that yam exportation policy of the Federal Government was a key goal that had been established by the Nigerian government where it actually export yam as there is a huge export market potential that is unrealized.
“So, immediately, we have to sit down and say, how do we partner with government to make sure that the gap is bridged? Sometimes, the government will say a key goal is import substitution. When it has to do with commodities that are imported, then it will be import substitution. In this case, it is a case of an exportation potential which is unrealized and so, we have to have a whole strategic agenda on how we partner with government to make sure that it is achieved. But the opportunities are there but we are going to be working along that line”, he said.
On rejection of some export commodities from Nigeria by the European countries, Mr. Robert Asiedu disclosed that IITA works with the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) as well as the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) even as he identified setting standards as a critical aspect of ensuring standardization of agro commodities.
“So, for a number of special crops that we work on, we often receive requests to contribute to setting the standards. Then also, when it comes to applying pesticides, often from our work, we start from the perspective of really relieving the farmers the burden of having to use pesticides at all because for a number of varieties of the commodities that we work on. You do have in some of the varieties a natural ability to resist the damage by pests and if we identify that and make that available to the farmers, then, it sort of removes the need to apply pesticides.
“But ultimately, in a number of circumstances, you may have to apply some chemicals, the question becomes the education of those applying that and this is an area where we also engage with partners in terms of disseminating the information when to apply, the right kind, the dosage and all that”, he stated.
On his part, the Deputy Director General Partnership for Delivery IITA, Mr. Kenston Dashiell informed that the whole subject of incorporating high quality cassava flour into bread was now being driven by the private sector saying that there were several large scale and medium scale factories that were buying cassava from the farmers, process them into flour and then use the flour to make bread, biscuits and many other products here in Nigeria.
He however said that the struggle now was that more cassava was needed for these processing factories as most of them were operating much below their capacity.
According to him,” So, I really see the support from the government is still there for the initiative but the private sector has taken the lead now and is driving the process forward”.
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