Market Assessment

Ghana Yam Market Sub-Sector and Value Chain Assessment, MEDA, 2011

    This study addresses four key aspects of interest to the Gates Foundation:
    (1) assessment of the potential to develop new ‘higher value’ yam products in final markets
    (2) assessment of potential and how to introduce new yam seed multiplication technology into the yam sector
    (3) investigation of storage stage of yam production (seed storage; on-farm post-harvest storage (seed and yam for resale)) and storage in the output supply chain en route to markets)
    (4) assessment / identification of strategies/capabilities needed for the National Agricultural Research System to effectively introduce new yam varieties to yam growing sector.

    Section 4 profiles the methodology. Section 5 portrays the yam value chain and features salient to this study’s interests. Section 6 analyses constraints to improving yam sector performance. Section 7 estimates yam farming profitability. Lastly, section 8 to 11 discuss and respond to the four questions of concern to the Gates Foundation.

    Methods for info gathering
    The methodology consisted of mainly qualitative key informant interviewing of yam farmers, traders and experts, review of available quantitative descriptive data and triangulation of various observations and insights across multiple sources to establish a reasonable degree of confidence in these and the findings stemming therefrom. This included a stakeholder’s validation workshop held on 24th March and attended by 29 individuals representing yam farmers, traders and wholesalers and other experts knowledgeable of the yam sector.

    Summary of results
    The central findings pertaining to the subjects of study interest include:

    (1) The potential for higher value processed yam food products to drive yam production and income growth for yam farmers in Ghana is extremely limited. Such value addition is essentially now non-existent. Consumers prefer fresh yam. However, yam farming appears very profitable and domestic, regional and international market demand for fresh yam ware appears robust and to be expanding.

    (2) It should prove feasible to establish a commercially viable high quality, and potentially certified, yam seed supply chain in Ghana based on tissue culture methods at a seed price that yam farmers will prove willing to pay. This finding is based on analysis of yam seed demand conditions (farmers, wholesalers), of current yam seed quality and of the economics of various yam seed multiplication alternatives. The specific model elaborated in this report is comprised of three stages: (1) tissue culture laboratory production and growing of plantlets under semi-controlled conditions yielding a breeder seed (average weight 2 grams; uniform size and shape); (2) mechanized planting and ‘multiplication’ of this breeder seed by commercial subcontract farmers, this yielding a 150 gram yam seed tuber; (3) commercial distribution of these seed tubers in branded sack packaged form through yam ware wholesalers and yam seed/ware wholesale markets.

    (3) Though yam ware spoilage rates are widely considered to be on the order of 30%, the distribution of yam ware storage losses across farmers, intermediary traders, retailers and final consumers has not been reliably assessed. Anecdotal reports obtained in this study consistently indicated that the bulk of loss occurs ‘on farm’ while yam ware is still owned by farmers, that farming families mitigate this loss by consuming a large proportion of it and that traders rarely hold yam ware long enough to experience loss greater than 10%, a cost of doing business that is ultimately born by farmers and retailers through traders’ purchasing and sales pricing tactics. While farmers do appear to bear the brunt of spoilage losses, no viable ‘improved storage technology’ solutions currently exist. The best prospects for reducing such losses lies with (a) improving how farmers and their hired labour handle yam ware (to reduce damage that leads to spoilage), (b) farmers adopting ‘no cost’ and ‘low cost’ opportunities to improve on-farm yam ware storage conditions (shading, stacking, air circulation, no ground contact) and, (c) introduction of high quality seed (theoretically offering higher resistance to infestations that cause actual spoilage).

    (4) Dozens of yam varieties are grown in Ghana, with consumers in different locales preferring different varieties and, correspondingly, farmers and traders endeavor to respond to these ‘geographically differentiated’ preferences. Anecdotal reports indicate that farmers are keen to experiment with new varieties. Both the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) and the Crops Research Institute (CRI) work closely with growing tests of these as well as testing of potentially superior growing methods. This work is very selective and modest in scope, is dependent on sporadic project funding and, in CRI’s case, is driven by ‘researcher interest’ and is not a strategic investment as such to strengthen the yam sector. This is not surprising given that development of the yam sector, in contrast to cassava, has not been deemed a priority in national policy, and so attracts little funding. While CRI may have the technical ability to generate and release new yam varieties, this cannot presently be achieved on a significant scale; the study outlines in more detailed the various constraints behind this.