Yam, the king of crops for most Nigerians, is grown predominantly in West Africa, and contributes 93% of the entire global output.
With Nigeria producing over 70 percent of the crop, the largest yam market in the world is found in Zaki Biam, a small town in Benue State, in the North Central. News Central Television’s Charles Erukaa visited Zaki Biam International Yam Market to feel the pulse of business there.
A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation says Nigeria is by far the world’s largest producer of yams, with 17 million tonnes annually, accounting for over 70 – 76 per cent of global production.
Most of this supply comes from the North Central state of Benue, where expectedly the largest market for the tuberous food and cash crop is located.
A huge chunk of the 2 million tubers of yam sold weekly in Benue state are transported through this market located in the bustling, nostalgic, town of Zaki Biam in Ukum local government area.
Between 120 and 200 truck loads of yams depart from this market on a daily basis. The yams come from various farmlands around Zaki Biam and Ukum as well as neighbouring Katsina Ala Local Government.
Despite its pretty basic appearance, it’s not for nothing that this yam market carries the tag international, with clients from all over Nigeria as well neighboring Ghana and Cameroon.
Owing to the market’s significance, the Federal Government of Nigeria In June 2020 commissioned a storage facility here, to serve as an industrial hub for even the neighboring yam-producing states like Nasarawa and Taraba.
But while the business is bustling, there are undercurrents of tension between operators of the market and their customers, mostly over taxation. The local government authorities agree that this is a thorny issue and it is being looked into.
For an international Yam Market meant to serve as an industrial hub, business in Zaki Biam is pretty basic, without an ounce of value chain.
With most of the world’s produced yam traded here, there are lots of potentials in the agricultural value chain waiting to be harnessed and exploited in the Zaki Biam International yam market, including by-products and value-added ones.