The Wukari International Yam Market in Taraba State is one of the biggest markets in the region, servicing the yam needs of many states in the country as well as traders from Cameroon, Niger Republic and Chad. Having been affected by communal crises in the area, the market is bouncing back to regain its bustle, as Daily Trust reports.
Like most things, this too started small, on a small patch of land in Wukari town. First, some traders came and set up stalls to sell yams. A few people came to buy. And then more people and more traders came. Now it is called the Wukari International Yam Market because buyers and traders come from neighbouring countries for the yams.
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Bustle, hustle inside the famous Wukari Yam Market
The bustling market is located along Wukari-Zaki-Biam Road and is open every day of the week during the yam season. When it started, it held only once a week.
In the beginning, the market only attracted yam farmers and buyers from within the old Gongola State. Soon, others came from other states of the country and within a short time, the market experienced rapid growth. This growth is very much connected to the massive yam production in Wukari and environs.
In 1987, the former chairman of Wukari Local Government Council, Alhaji Danladi Shehu, relocated the market to its present site.
One thing that has helped the market is this new location on the road linking Jalingo, Takum, Donga, Ibbi and Benue State. This helped it quickly establish itself as the biggest yam market in the state, and subsequently one of the biggest in the region.
But the rapid growth has not been without setbacks. Daily Trust findings revealed that a series of conflicts between the Tiv and Jukun and that between the Jukun and Hausa has affected the operation of the market seriously.
The 1991 crisis most especially crippled the market and subsequent ones have had major impacts on the market.
However, with the return of peace to Wukari and the rest of Southern Taraba, business has picked up and farmers from all parts of Wukari and neighbouring local government areas are now bringing yam to the market for sale.
A farmer, Mr Agbu Musa, told Daily Trust that farmers have gone back to farm last farming season and they have witnessed bumper harvest.
He said yam is one of the main thing farmers produce in the Wukari area and that is why there is yam for sale almost throughout the year at the market.
Findings revealed that merchants from Kano, Bauchi, Borno, Lagos, and parts of the South East as well as Cameroon and the Niger Republic buy yam at Wukari.
One of the merchants, Alhaji Abubakar Musa from Bauchi, said he has been patronizing the Wukari Yam Market for several years but he stopped coming in the past years because of the crisis during which traders were killed. Many traders, he said, stopped coming as a result.
He said, however, with the return of peace, many merchants have returned and are buying yam in large quantities.
A trader at the market, Mallam Ibrahim Dogo, told Daily Trust that the market has regained its past glory and bustle.
“We have more and more farmers bringing Yam for sale in the market and buyers are also coming in large numbers from different parts of the country and even beyond to buy yam in large quantities at the market,” Dogo said.
He said merchants prefer Wukari Yam Market because there is always quality yam for sale almost all year round and it is cheaper than what is obtained in other markets.
In the past, he said, one hundred pieces of yam were sold at the rate of N25, 000 but now they are sold between N40, 000 and N50, 000.
He said Wukari yam was now bigger in size than it was in previous years because of the introduction of ‘Kwako,’ a new planting method.
Ibrahim Dogo revealed that a whole yam is planted as a seed instead of dividing the tuber into many pieces during planting. This method, he said, has given good harvest to farmers.
Bigger yams mean higher prices and more customers and so, Dogo said, the appeal of the market has increased.
When Daily Trust visited the market, thousands of traders from Nigeria and the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad were busy haggling over prices, while hundreds of pick up vehicles were seen with loads of yam from different villages and towns in Wukari arriving at the market to offload their goods. At the same time, hundreds of trucks loaded to the brim with yam were driving out of the markets to various destinations.
The secretary of the market, Mr Shedrack ShiShi, told Daily Trust that the market usually starts functioning in August and operates for about six months annually.
ShiShi said further that the return of peace to Wukari and Southern Taraba has improved agriculture, which is a major occupation of the people.
He said yam farming has also increased among farmers in the area, adding that an individual farmer could produce more than 10 pickup load of yam annually.
The secretary said that for many people in Wukari, their lives revolve around yam as the business brings about huge turnover for both farmers and traders.
He also disclosed that both the Taraba State Government and the Wukari Local Government Council are generating huge revenues in the market daily.
Shi Shi, explained that each truck leaving the market with yam pays a revenue of N4,000 while pickups and other small vehicles are also charged different amounts of money as revenue.
He said, however, that the market needs proper fencing, landscaping, a police outpost and banks, among other things.
He said there is adequate security arrangement to protect people transacting business in the market.