The use of fertilisers and chemicals such as weedicides, herbicides and pesticides is becoming dominant in agriculture in Ghana and the yam sector is no exception, the sad part is the reckless application of these chemicals, which compromises the quality and the shelf life even before the arrival of the produce on the world market.
For this, some yam exporters in the country have decried the continuous decline in the quality of yam for the export market.
Many yam exporters have lost quite huge investments in the trade especially with the “Puna” yam variety this year. They say most of the yams exported get rotten before the consignment reaches its destination.
An exporter with over 12 years export experience, Mr. William Safo Ayeh, has complained that the reckless application of chemicals to yam produce in Ghana is becoming a great concern to exporters as most of their yam exports are rejected before reaching their destination, especially Europe.
Mr. Ayeh who is also a member of the Ghana Assorted Food Exporters Association (GAFEA) added that the situation is affecting their investment and subsequent revenue the government would have accrued if the yam exportation was booming as before.
“An exporter can spend Gh¢ 100.000.00 to export a 40 ft container of yam and when quarter or half of the produce gets rotten, how can we get our investment back.” He wonders.
“We started exporting Yam to Europe, UK to be specific since 2006, the quality then was very good. The farmers then did not apply chemicals to their produce and this enabled the yam to last longer.
“As time goes by, the farmers we buy from started introducing chemicals such as weedicides, herbicides to spray the farm instead of employing labour to weed their farms.
“What is worsening the situation is the wrong and ignorant application of fertilizers affecting the quality of the yam produced in the country,” Mr. Ayeh stated.
He also disclosed that Nigeria has started planting “Puna” and if Ghana continues to entertain the rejection of its produce in Europe and other parts of the world, the country will lose its business to Nigeria.
Mr. Ayeh believes that farmers can still get bumper harvest without the use of excessive fertilisers.
He added that the GAFEA, of which he is a member has met severally to discuss how to deal with it but still the problem exists adding that now when their yam produce are exported to Europe, they do not get value for money because almost half of the yam go bad before reaching its destination.
Mr. William Safo Ayeh is calling on the government, the ministry of Food and Agriculture, CSIR and other relevant stakeholders in the agric sector to as a matter of urgency get in touch with yam farmers in the country, train and educate them on the proper use of fertilisers and also educate them on the dangers of weedicides, herbicides and pesticides on their produce as it has the tendency to affect the long term yam sector negatively.
He said, “Fertilisers and especially the organic fertilisers can be good but the excessive practice and the wrong application is the issue.”
According to an Agronomist, Dzokoto Shakespeare, “It is worrying to note that exporters are not talking about it. Some have lost close to 40% or more of their produce before it got to its final destination.
“Some have also been rejected on arrival due to high rate of decomposed or rotten tubers. Puna, which hitherto was naturally grown has fallen victim to this misfortune.”
He also added that yam must return to its organic model to save the industry. Hence, the need to organize the yam sector prior to the next major season because most yam exporters are not happy and this must be addressed by the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.
Brief on Yam export in Ghana
According to the Ghana Export Promotion Authority’s report, the export of Yam from Ghana increased from US$ 32.599 million in 2017 to US$37.986 million in 2018. In terms of global ranking of countries that exported products under the sector in spotlight, Ghana garnered the 6th position.
The USA was the largest market destination for yam from Ghana with estimated imports of US$14.355 million of the product in 2018 compared to US$12.929 million and US$10.585 million for 2017 and 2016 respectively.
Other notable importers of yam from Ghana include the UK (US$ 10.202million), The Netherland (US$ 3.614 million, Belgium (US$ 3.502 million), and S.A ( US$ 2.224 million).
The top five importing countries comprising the USA, the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa accounted for about 89.3% of total value of exports of the product from Ghana