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Yam Cultivation and Frozen Yam Chips Production in Nigeria; The Opportunities.

Yam (Dioscorea spp.) is an important food crop especially in the yam zone of West Africa. Although more than six hundred species of the tuber exist, only a few are important as staple food in the tropics. These include white yam (D. rotundata), yellow yam (D. Cayenensis), water yam (D. alata), trifoliate yam (D. dumetorum), aerial yam (D. bulbifera) and Chinese yam (D. esculenta).

West Africa accounts for 90-95% of world yam production with Nigeria the largest single producer. In 2004, global yam production was about 47 million metric tons (MT) with 96% of this coming from Africa.

Nigeria alone accounts for about 70 percent of world production .It is the second most important root/tuber crop in Africa with production reaching just under one third the level of cassava.

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.

Frozen Yam Chips is a product derived from Yam that are frozen to preserve them before actual preparation/use. Frozen yam is a product that takes off the stress as it is easy to prepare. Frozen Yam Chips when prepared are mostly called French fries. French fries are batons of deep-fried yam. French fries are served hot, either soft or crispy, and generally eaten as part of lunch or dinner, or on their own as a snack, and they commonly appear on the menus of fast food restaurants. French fries are generally salted and are often served with ketchup; in many countries they are topped instead with other condiments or toppings, including vinegar, mayonnaise, or other local specialties.

The demand for food product is high in Nigeria. The demand cuts across social, religious, age and cultural strata. The market for Frozen Yam Chip (French Fries) is national. With a population of over one hundred and sixty five million (165,000,000) people, Nigeria has a large market for frozen Yam Chip (French Fries). The demand for frozen French fries has been growing over the years, marked by the growing demand for fast food products. French fries constitute an essential element in the restaurants menus, as French fries are highly demanded by clients. Consequently, restaurants consume large quantities of frozen French fries ranging from 150Kg to 1,000Kg per day.

The local market size for frozen French fries is estimated at around 60-70 tons/day with a significant increase during holidays, vacations and weekends.

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