Exports of yam tubers reached a high record of US$48million last year, according to data from the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA) – making the country the world’s largest exporter of yam.
The country now controls 24 percent of the US$200million global export market, growing its export value from US$38.5million in 2018 to US$48.2million in 2021. GEPA said exports grew at an annual rate of 14 percent from 2020-2021 and an average of 9 percent between 2017 and 2021.
The USA alone imported US$87million worth of yam from the world in 2021. Among its top suppliers were: Jamaica, 37.4 percent; Ghana, 21.9 percent; Costa Rica, 10.8 percent; Colombia, 8.7 percent; and Brazil, 8.2 percent,” GEPA said in a yam industry report.
“The United States of America’s imports of yam from Ghana represent 39.6 percent of the total global value of yam exported by Ghana”.GEPA
Meanwhile, globally, Jamaica is Ghana’s closest competitor, ranking second in the export of yam. Its total exports were valued at US$39million in 2021.
Jamaica had 82.8 percent of its yam exports go to the United States market, as compared to the 39.6 percent of Ghana’s exports to the same market.
The leading global exporters of yam were Ghana, US$48million; Jamaica, US$39million; the United States of America, US$22million; Japan, US$21million; and China, US$ 20 million.
Growth forecast, Challenges facing yam production
The global yam market is projected to register a compound annual growth rate of 3.5 percent between 2020 and 2025, says Mordor intelligence, a market research firm.
Just like any other agricultural produce, constraints to its production include high labour demand and other inputs such as planting materials, unreliable sources of credit, pests and diseases, declining soil fertility, and unpredictable weather conditions.
In commercial terms, yam production is constrained by a lack of modern storage facilities, a ready market, and a well-coordinated national policy to boost production and export.
For instance, there are yearly reports of heaps of yam being left to rot across many farming communities because they lack storage facilities.
“We do not have storage facilities; we leave the tubers in the open and exposed to the sun, causing the yam to rot”, Barnabas Abu, a yam-farmer based at Yendi-Bimbilla in the Northern Region said.
He said the situation gets particularly bad during January and May due to excessive heat within those periods.
In a recent article, Dr. Besah-Adanu, an Intellectual Property Expert and a Consultant at the Ghana Industrial Property Office, Registrar General’s Department, Accra highlights the need for Ghana to focus on yam production as that could generate revenue for the country.
“We in the Industrial Property Right Protection space wish to uncover some low-hanging revenue fruits that the nation could innovatively harvest. Geographical Indications (GIs) are signs used on products from a particular geographical origin, with specific qualities or a reputation that are essentially attributed to the place of origin.
“This form of Intellectual Property, protects the uniqueness, reputation, and other characteristics that easily differentiate a product from other similar ones on the market.”Dr. Besah-Adanu
The yam crop is an important crop generating income for over 60 million people. Global yam production increased from 15.3million tons in 1971 to 74.8 million tons in 2020.
Ghana produces about 8 million tons of yam annually. The country’s yam production has increased significantly over the period. In 2018 and 2019, production were about 7,858,209 and 8,288,198 metric tons, respectively, compared with previous years.
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