In 2020, the export of yam tubers reached a record high of US$48million according to data from the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), making the country the world’s largest exporter of yam. The commodity contributes 16 percent to the country’s Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and is mainly produced by smallholder farmers using rudimentary hand tools. For this reason, yam cultivation tends to be labour intensive, especially concerning land preparation. The price for yam in Ghana is very high compared to other staple food crops, notably cassava due to higher production costs and post-harvest losses.
Yam production in the country is largely dependent on rainfall patterns in soils where annual rainfall ranges from 1 000 to 1 500 mm. Yams require rainfall five months out of the eight months of growth in the field as well as highly fertile soil.
Yam is an important staple food crop in Ghana and is produced throughout the country. About 76 percent of yam production takes place in the Brong Ahafo, Northern and Eastern Regions, which account for 39, 25, and 12 percent of total production, respectively, while the remaining 24 percent of production is distributed throughout the Upper West, Ashanti, Volta and Western Regions.
Several varieties of yam are produced throughout Ghana. These include Pona (white yam), Dente /Ponjo, Asana, and Serwa. In recent years, Ghana’s Crop Research Institute (CRI) introduced new high-yield varieties, such as the Mankrong, Kukrupa and others. However, white yam/Pona remains the most preferred variety in both the domestic and export markets.
Yam production is also seasonal, with the main harvest season occurring from August to December and a lean crop season occurring from May to July. Yam is consumed by the majority of Ghanaians in both rural and urban areas. Boiled yam (ampesi) was found to be the most preferred yam product in Ghanaian urban centres, followed by pounded yam (fufu), roasted and fried. Most Ghanaians prefer the taste of the white yam, as opposed to the yellow yam.
Just like any other agricultural produce, constraints to its production include high labour demand, lack of modern storage facilities, absence of a ready market, declining soil fertility, unpredictable weather conditions, and a well-coordinated national policy to boost production and export.
Ghana’s yam exports are imported by three countries; the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Netherlands.
Yams are highly nutritious and include benefits such as improving your overall digestive health, can improve cholesterol levels, can strengthen your brain function, may alleviate inflammation, can potentially improve blood sugar levels, preventing Anemia, can improve your eyesight, and great support for a healthy heart.