Yam Cultivation and Yam Flour Production in Nigeria

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Yam (Dioscorea spp.) is a very important common food crop in West Africa. Beyond its food and nutritious values, the ownership and cultivation of yam have many cultural, religious, and social meanings, which may vary between specific ethnic groups and regional areas.

Yam, a tropical crop in the genus Dioscorea, has as many as 600 species out of which six are economically important staple species. These are: Dioscorea rotundata (white guinea yam), Dioscorea alata (yellow yam), Dioscorea bulbifera (aerial yam), Dioscorea esculant (Chinese yam) and Dioscorea dumetorum (trifoliate yam). Out of these, Dioscorea rotundata (white yam) and Dioscorea alata (water yam) are the most common species in Nigeria. Yams are grown in the coastal region in rain forests, wood savanna and southern savanna habitats.

Nigeria, West Africa produces yam in vast quantity and is accounting for about 70% of the world’s total yam production. It is mostly grown in Benue, taraba, Cross River, Adamawa, Delta, Ekiti, Imo, Edo, Kaduna, Ogun, Kwara, Ondo, Osun, Plateau and Oyo.

Yams are starchy staples in the form of large tubers produced by annual and perennial vines grown in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean, South Pacific and Asia. Yams are primary agricultural commodities and major staple crops in Africa, where yam cultivation began 11,000 years ago.

The world production of yam was estimated at 28.1 million tons in 1993. 96% of this came from West Africa, the main producers being; Nigeria, the world’s largest yam producer with 71% of world production; Côte d’Ivoire 8.1%; Benin 4.3% and Ghana 3.5% In the humid tropical countries of West Africa yams are one of the most highly regarded food products and are closely integrated into the social, cultural, economic and religious aspects of life.

Worldwide yam production in 2007 amounted to 52 million tons, of which Africa produced 96%. Most of the world’s production comes from West Africa representing 94%, with Nigeria alone producing 71%, equalling more than 37 million tons.

To set up a yam farm in Nigeria, one has to take the following steps

  1. Select Farm
  2. Land Preparation
  3. Planting
  4. Agricultural Practice (weeding,mulching,fertilizer application etc)
  5. Harvesting and Storage
  6. Processing

Yam basically undergoes two phases namely growth and dormant phases. The growth phase occurs for about six to ten months depending on the species and then slowed down for two to four month, the slowing down process is called the dormant phases, these phases occur in the wet and dry season respectively.

Depending on the species, yam grows for six to ten months and is dormant for two to four months, these two phases usually corresponding to the wet season and the dry season. In West and Central Africa tubers are planted between February and April, depending on whether in humid forest or on the savanna. For maximum yield the yam requires an annual rainfall of over 1,500 mm distributed uniformly throughout the growing season. White, yellow and water yams normally produce annually a single large tuber, often weighing 5-10 kg.

Planting is done by seed yam or cut setts from ware tubers. The tubers are treated with wood ash or fungicide. Mulching is essential during October – November with dry grass or plant debris. Stakes of are used for staking the plants to vine over it.

Instant pounded yam flour, a product gotten from the processing of yam tubers is a very important staple food item in Nigeria. It is one of the food items that defy socio-economic class, religious and ethnic boundaries, it is doubtful if it is not eaten daily in one of every ten homes in the country.
The average consumption rate of yam and it bye-products in Nigeria is estimated at 0.5 – 1.0 kg daily.

yammflour

Yam flour is a creamy-white, granular flour with a slightly fermented flavour and a slightly sour taste made from fermented, gelatinized fresh yam tubers. Yam flour is used in the preparation of poundo yam.

It is a cherished delicacy when served in the form of “Samolina” or “Samovita”, with well-prepared soup. Apart from serving as food, it has a lot of industrial uses. It is used in production of all-purpose-adhesives. The adhesives are used by producers of cartons, packaging companies and lather and shoe producers. The all-purpose adhesives is produced with yam or cassava starch.

Some industries particularly in Europe use yam flour in preparation of high quality biscuits, bread, cakes to mention but few.

The process technology for the production of instant pounded yam flour is given below

Yam Selection

The yam is sorted to select whole some tubers suitable for production of instant pounded yam flour. The matured white varieties are the most suitable yam for instant pounded yam flour production.

Weighing

The selected yam tubers are weighed accurately.

Washing

The tubers are properly washed to remove sand and other debris.

Peeling and Slicing

The washed yam tubers are peeled. This is followed by slicing operation to obtain yam slices of desired thickness.

Parboiling

The sliced yam is blanched in boiling water over a period of time depending on the thickness of the slices.

Drying

The parboiled yam slices are dried in a suitable dryer at a specified drying temperature and time.

Milling

The dried yam chips are milled directly into flour of uniform particle size.

Packaging

The instant pounded yam is packaged in moisture proof packaging materials

The market for instant pounded yam flour is National. With a population of over 165 million people, estimated national population growth rate of 5.7% per annum and an average economic growth rate of 3.5 % in the past five (5) years, Nigeria has a large ,expanding and sustainable market for instant pounded yam flour.

There is high demand for instant pounded yam flour in both the domestic and international markets. In the international market, a large market exists in Europe and America where a good number of Nigerians reside.

The national demand for instant pounded yam flour is estimated at 165,000 tonnes per annum while the current supply level is less than 25% of the demand estimate.

It consumption cuts across every strata of the society both the rich and poor

Source:Foraminifera