By Tunde Johnson, Abuja
The Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme (TCNYEP) has said it is targeting to export about 1,440 tonnes of yams to the United States.
To achieve this, the committee said it will supply 480 tonnes of yams per month to the US.
According to the committee, the US has already requested for the supply of five containers monthly, which amounted to 120 tonnes of yams monthly and 1,440 tonnes of yams in a year.
Simon Irtwange, Chairman of the committee, on Monday in Abuja said that the target would be achieved if all the challenges, which yam exporters experienced in 2017, were surmounted.
He said, “If everything works out well, the U.S. authorities say they will need about five containers every month and one container contains 24 tonnes of yams.
“We are trying to aggregate the demand from other countries; so by the time we put everything together, we should be thinking of exporting about 20 containers of yams on a monthly basis.
“When you multiply 20 by 24, the total is 480 tonnes of yams.
“We have a work plan and we have a lot of activities that we have already pencilled down.
“We are working with relevant government agencies to provide the necessary support for the programme,’’ he said.
Irtwange said that the Nigerian Ports Authority had made available the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal to facilitate the packaging and movement of yams meant for export.
He said that the committee was also working with the NPA to get people who would invest in constructing yam pack houses at the terminal.
“The NPA has already given us the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, where we can bring our yams and do all the packaging before moving them down to the ports.
“That way, we will avoid the gridlock in Apapa because now, we are using batches to move the yams from Ikorodu to Apapa,’’ he added.
On the challenges which yam exporters encountered in 2017, Irtwange said that the committee had forwarded a report to the Federal Government on possible ways of tackling the perceptible hitches.
“On the issue of transportation, we need cold trucks; we also need yam conditioning centres.
“Presently, there is only one conditioning centre owned by the Nigeria Export Promotion Council in Zaki-Ibiam, Benue State, but that is not enough, we need more.
“On the issues of packaging and production of cartons for the yams, we are also hoping to have local investors.
“Right now, there are only two companies that can do this for us — an Indian company in Ibadan and a Chinese company in Lagos — and the problem is that in most cases, they don’t take orders for little quantities of cartons for production.
“A container will take about 1,200 cartons and when you go to the companies for the production of 1,200 cartons, they will say it is too small.
“We are also thinking that if there are people that can produce the cartons in small quantities, things will be okay. We want to get those who can produce small quantities of cartons for sale to yam exporters,’’ he added.