Professor of Food Science and Technology from Bowen University, Osun State, Iwo, Mrs Bolanle Otegbola, has declared that Nigeria is yet to maximise, or explore the industrial potential of yam as part of its comparative advantage among other agricultural food products.
She made this remark recently, while delivering the eight edition of Bowen University’s inaugural lecture which she entitled: The Mystery of the invisible determinant of life: A voyage in the realm of food quality.
According to her, one of the crops with the potential for enhanced value addition in West Africa and which can generate foreign exchange is yam.
She said there are more than six hundred yam species, but only six of them are mostly grown as staple foods in Africa, which she mentioned as white yam, yellow yam, water yam, pax (Trifoliate yam) linn.
(Aerial yam) and lour (Chinese yam).
She noted that most of the utilisation of yam is limited to subsistence level, and in order to break out of this subsistence mode, the input of all key players in yam value chain is needed, especially between researchers and farmers.
Professor Otegbola asserted that farmers are the primary producers of yam, representing an important component in the yam value chain, stressing that it is pertinent to know what food quality mean to the farmers, that is their perception of food quality in yam.
According to her, to the farmers, food quality means sustainable derivable income from cultivating a particular variety/species, suitability of the yam for its best food product (pounded yam), ability to be stored for an extended period and capability of the yam to act as a substitute.
She said in her lecture: “The development will enable researchers to use holistic approach to carry out effective selection of varieties with variable food qualities, their industrial potential, expand the utilisation of yam product, improve its market value and increase income for all the key players farmers, processors and consumers.
She also pointed it out in her lecture that farmers do not place premium on nutritional value, or potential industrial utilization of yam, and they do not have definite food quality indicators in the yam tubers that can determine or predict the quality of the product from tubers.
Their prediction of food quality is based on their experience in cultivating different varieties.
“This study showed that it is important for researchers to involve farmers in food quality studies as a form of holistic approach in achieving improved food quality.
She noted that yam produces edible starchy storage tubers, about 80 per cent, which are of cultural, economic and nutritional importance, but yam starch is largely neither exploited nor listed among the most common sources of industrial starch which are: corn wheat cassava and rice These crops are being utilised industrially.
“The neglect of yam may be adduced to the subsistence nature of the crop; hence yam starch has not benefitted from degree of value-added research required to ensure commercial competitiveness on an international scale.
This has led to minimal information being available on the functionality and subsequent industrial potential of yam starch.
The resultant effect of this is less profitability to farmers in spite of the capital and labour that is being invested into its production, narrow range of food products leading to some volatility of demand and instability of profit margin to resource poor farmers.
She said;“Yam consumption and utilization in the country is limited to a narrow range of food products, leading to volatility of demand and instability of profit margin to resource poor farmers.
Despite that Nigeria is one of the largest producers of yam in the world there were very few value-added products from yam for local and international trade due to lack of suitable raw materials as a result of minimal information on the food quality and industrial potentials of the crop.
In her recommendation, Professor Otegbayo suggested more collaborations between researchers and end users of research outputs in the industry.
Value addition to indigenous crops through product development will also go a long way to reduce post-harvest losses.
She asserted that farmers are the gate keepers and bear the food basket and any effort geared at enhancing the economic, social and security well being of the farmers will promote the economy of the country, adding that funding of ressearch in private and public tertiary insitutions is very important for a technology and knowledge driven economy.
Nigeria Yet To Explore Industrial Potential Of Yam —Prof Otegbayo