Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea (family Dioscoreaceae). These are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania.
There are many cultivars of yam though only six are important as staples in the tropics. The economically important species grown are Dioscorea rotundata (white yam), Dioscorea alata (yellow yam), Dioscorea bulbifera (aerial yam), Dioscorea esculenta (Chinese yam) and Dioscorea dumenterum (trifoliate yam). Yams are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese; while being low in saturated fat and sodium.
Worldwide yam production in 2007 amounted to 52 million tons, of which Africa produced 96%. Most of the world’s production comes from West Africa representing 94%, with Nigeria alone producing 71%, equaling more than 37 million tons. Though yams can be stored up to six months without refrigeration most of the yearly production is lost through spoilage because of lack of post-harvest facility in the country.
In Nigeria, though yams can be consumed by boiling, roasting and processed to yield Amala (especially in the South western part of the country), it can also be processed into the production of instant yam flour.
The traditional method of making pounded yam which requires physical pounding with mortar and pestle is very laborious and in some cases unhygienic. The increasing number of middle class family and the rise in health consciousness amongst the populace is making the traditional way of processing pounded yam in Nigeria fast becoming a thing of the past as more and more family are shifting from the use of mortar and pestle to ready processed yam to be used for pounded yam production.
The process of producing instant yam flour is quite simple; it involves slicing, parboiling, drying and milling of the product to yield flour. The machinery and equipment required for production can be sourced locally or from abroad, and they include;
Yam slicer, yam parboiler, hammer mill with cyclone, industrial nylon sealing machine and a weighing machine.
From research carried out, you will even make more money from processing agricultural products such as yam. Establishing yam processing plants to produce yam flour, yam chips and yam flakes to mention but few will create more value, employ more hands(both direct and indirect), develop more small and medium scale industries as well as encouraging rural development.
There is need to add value to primary product like yam. When yam is processed, more value is added, local industries established, more jobs created and farmers produce more.
The world all over are reducing the export of primary products to processed products (add values). There is need to add value to primary Agricultural product instead of exporting them in raw form. When yam is processed, more value is added, local industries established, more jobs created and farmers produce more.
One of the more acceptable means of preserving yam is to convert it to yam flour, yam chips and yam flakes. The traditional processing method is out modelled and laborious and grossly inefficient for mass production to satisfy the teeming population and local demand and make room for the export market to earn foreign exchange.
Yam flour is a cherished delicacy among Africans and other parts of the world.
Its processing increases its shelf life, adds value to the tuber (from where it is processed) before being exported to enhance its economic value, reduces waste and cuts down the cost of transporting the product to longer distances compared with the heavy wet tubers that are unprocessed.
The fact that this can be preserved helps to stabilize prices during off harvest season. The setting up of this project is seen to be feasible, considering the following Technical considerations
The plant aimed here will be able produce and package quality finished products for export. Its rated capacity is 1,250 metric tons of well packaged yam flour per year (8hours per day of 250 days in a year after allowing about 2.5% waste).this implies capacity of about 20tones per day. The conversion ratio of raw yam tubers to yam flour is 3:1. This means that about 1,500MT of raw yam tubers will be needed per day, working at full capacity.
The machinery and equipment needed to process yam flour are
(a) Yam Peeler (could be done manually)
(d) International Standard Scale
(e) Automatic Sealing Machine
(g) Packaging Machine
All the above machines and processing technology can be obtained locally. The machines apart from obtaining locally can as well be imported.
The raw materials needed are yam tubers. These are obtainable from farms cultivated by plantations, small holders and co-operative farmers. There is abundant yam grown in this country. Nigeria is the world’s largest producers of yams with over six million metric tons per annum of this output; only about 5% is put into industrial use by way of chips and flour. Almost all states of federation grows yam.
The best place to locate this project is the area where yam tubers are obtained in abundance. Yam tubers are heavy and so transport expenses would be reduced if the project is located in areas where the tubers are grown in abundance, hence it can be sited in any part of the country. Other factors to consider include:
(a) Availability of labor and raw materials in commercial quantity.
(b) Availability of infrastructural facilities (water, power, access road etc). Export processing zones will be most ideal for setting up this project, if it is basically for export.
(c) Ease or otherwise of the accessibility of the plant site to urban areas/ markets both for local consumption and export.
To accommodate the plant, one needs a large building with an area of about 1,500M2.
The market for yam flour
The market is both local and international. The later should be targeted where there is preponderance of inhabitants of Africans in Europe, America and Asian countries. Based on research, some marketing points internationally have been established and would be given to prospective investors.
The factors that have positively affect the demand for this product include the prevalence of foreign exchange crunch, habit/culture, the increase in population of the country, the fact that its consumption cuts across demographic classes, income levels and religious boundaries.
Briefly the processes involved in yam flour production are
(1) Procurement of good quality tubers, weighing and washing of them.
(2) Peeling the washed tubers
(3) Grinding of the peeled tubers into pulp.
(4) Drying of the ground yam pulp
(5) Milling of the dried pulp
(6) Sieving to avoid having lumps when being prepared for eating
(7) Bagging and Packaging (2kg, 5kg, 10kg, 25kg and 50kg).
Details of the standard required in the international market will be given to prospective investors.
The production process is highlighted below;
·Yam selection; fresh harvested yam gotten from the farm are sorted to select whole-some tubers that are suitable for the production of instant pounded yam flour. Usually the mature white varieties of yam are most suitable.
·Weighing; the selected yam are weighed properly
·Washing; the yam tubers are washed properly in order to get rid of sand and other extraneous materials.
·Peeling and slicing; the washed yam tubers are peeled and then sliced to desired thickness.
·Parboiling; the sliced yam are then put into boiling water over a period of time depending on the thickness of the slices.
·Drying; the parboiled yam slices are dried in a dryer at a specified drying temperature and time.
·Milling; the dried yam slices are milled directly into flour of uniform particle size.
·Packaging; the instant pounded yam flour is the finally packaged in moisture proof nylon bags.
Raw materials, supplies and inputs
The only raw material required for the production of instant pounded yam flour is yam tubers. Nigeria has an abundant supply of yam, especially in the middle belt, south west (Oyo,Ondo and Osun states) and some parts in the North and Eastern Nigeria.
The major item of supplies is the packaging materials. Other supplies required include; factory wears (overall, hand gloves, factory shoes,nose masks), disinfectants e.t.c. Electricity, diesel (for generator and project truck) and water are the major utilities required for a smooth production of instant pounded yam flour.
Cost and funding
The project can be set up with minimum of N8.0 million using locally made machines. It will be more if imported machines are to be applied.
In terms of funding there are some institutions in Nigeria that are interested in the funding of this type of projects. Details will be given to prospective investors.
The project is very profitable. With good marketing strategies, good management and export oriented, the payback period would be less than 2 years.
The return on investment is very encouraging at over 58%.