Can Nigeria’s Yams Power a Nation?

Can Nigeria’s Yams Power a Nation?

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BBC NEWS AT BBC.CO.UK/NEWS

Yam production in Nigeria is thriving, and the United Nations says that Nigeria produces more than 60% of the world’s crop.

Despite this, Nigeria is not one of the world’s top exporters. Its neighbor, Ghana, produces far less but exports more yams to European countries, including the United Kingdom, than Nigeria does.

Spotting this discrepancy, Nigeria has launched an ambitious yam export plan. It is hoped that exporting more yams will diversify Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy, which has plunged into its worst recession in 25 years because of falling global oil prices over the past couple of years. The government also wants to provide young people with jobs in agriculture. 

Europe and the U.S. are the main focus of the program. The large Nigerian diaspora around the world also is a potentially big market.

Despite being a government program, the yam export initiative is driven by the private sector. The state is only responsible for striking intergovernmental agreements with importing countries, giving the green light for the trade.

So far, the high cost of preserving and transporting yams has been a problem. About 200 metric tons of yams have been exported to Europe and America since the plan was launched in mid-2018 — a fraction of the 60 million metric tons produced every year.