Analysis of Cocoyam (Xanthosoma Sagittifolium and Colocasia Esculenta) Marketing in Rivers State, Nigeria





1.1       Background Information                                                                           

American Marketing Association (2004) gave a definition of marketing which views marketing as “an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”  Kotler & Armstrong (1991) defined marketing as a process by which individuals and groups obtained what they needed and wanted by creating and exchanging products and values with others. In a related study, Arene (1998) observed agricultural marketing as involving all those legal, physical and economic services that make it possible for products from producers to get to consumers in the form desired by consumers, at the place desired by the consumers, and at the price agreeable to producers and consumers for effecting a change of ownership/possession. From these definitions, therefore, cocoyam marketing involves the creation of utilities of form, place, time and possession. Creation of these utilities  bring to the fore  performance of all business activities involved in the flow of cocoyam products and services from the point of initial agricultural production until they are in the hands of consumers (Kohls & Uhl, 2001). It can be reasoned from the foregoing, that cocoyam marketing is an integral part of cocoyam production process which comprises all those business services (transportation, grading and standardization, processing, packaging, financing, risk bearing) that take place from the initial point of production (farm or farm gate) to the ultimate or final consumers. For these to be actualized, stake-holders in the agricultural industry take decisions that are critical in the marketing process.


Olukosi and Isitor (1990) held that within the marketing system prices, allocation of resources, income distribution and capital formation are determined. Therefore, the structure and performance of the marketing system may have some significant effects on the total production of a given commodity, on consumer prices, on adoption of improved technology in production and marketing methods and in fact, upon the growth and development of the entire economy. An efficient and functioning cocoyam marketing system is a pre-condition in avoidance of middlemen exploitation of farmers, encouragement of investment in cocoyam production as an aspect of agricultural diversification and improving food security (FAO, 2005).  Dixie (1989) highlighted the potential contribution of agricultural and food marketing towards attempts to improve rural income in developing countries.  In an earlier study, Kriesberg (1974) reported that in less developed countries the customers spent in excess of 50 percent of the households’ income on basic food stuff, much of which was inadequate in quality and nutritional content.  In contrast, Americans spent approximately 12 percent of their total disposable income on food.  In Western Europe, the figure ranged from 15 to 19 percent of disposable income. Nigeria’s agriculture, in economic terms, was the major revenue earner long before the advent of oil rigs, pipe lines and refineries which led to the neglect of agricultural activities. The neglect of agricultural activities, however, is much more pronounced in marketing than in production.  According to Osuji (1980), this situation appeared to be aggravated in Nigeria by policy makers who had not considered marketing and distribution of food crops (cocoyam inclusive) as serious bottle- necks to the economic development of the nation. Cocoyam marketing, like some agricultural marketing may not be efficient. Explaining this, Banwo (1982) observed that the bulkiness of cocoyam and its high level of perishability made application of uniform standard for efficient marketing difficult.

It is important to note that a food crop such as cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium  and Colocasia  esculenta), a member of the araceae family, is an ancient crop grown throughout the humid tropics for its edible corms, cormels and leaves as well as other traditional uses (Pinto, 2000; Onwueme, 1994; Ekanem & Osuji, 2006). It is an important carbohydrate staple food particularly in the southern and middle belt areas of Nigeria (Asumugha & Mbanaso, 2002). They are also sub-tropical crops. Lawson, Apapa and Kingson, (2009) reported that cocoyam grew well under the shade and tolerated soil salinity and logging.

The crop, as noted by Onuegbu (1995) has a multiplicity of highly localized vernacular names: malanga and guagui in Cuba; galanga or tayo in Haiti; yautia  in Dominican Republic and the Philippines; yautia or tanier in Puerto Rico; tania in Trinidad; chou caraibe in Martinique and Gabon; ocumo or yacumo in Venezuela; taioba, mangareto, mangarito, mangoras in Brazil; gualuza in Bolivia; macal in Mexico; quiscamote in Honduras; tiquisque in Costa Rica; oto in Panama; uncucha in Peru; malangay in Colombia; queiquexque in Mexico; tannia taniera in Antilles; and macabo in Cameroon.

In Nigeria, the local names of cocoyam for the major tribes are gwaza in Hausa, coco, lambo or ikako in Yoruba; ede or akasi in Ibo, odu in Ijaw; and igbon in Efik. In Rivers State (particularly the study area), the following vernacular names exist: ede uhie or ede ocha in Ogba for the pink and white fleshed types of the Xanthosoma saggittifolium spp respectively while the colocasia esculenta is called ‘ede india’, togosugu in Ogoni, and ede in Ikwerre, Ekpeye and Etche.

From a study on cocoyam production in Rivers State, Lawson, Apapa and Kingson (2009) showed that the two main species (Xanthosoma Saggittifolium and Colocasia esculenta) grew well under shade in sandy loam soil and tolerated soil salinity and logging. Cocoyam, which is usually harvested seven months after planting is either sole cropped or intercropped with maize and cassava. It is planted early April/May and especially immediately the rain is steady in the area. When intercropped, cocoyam and maize are planted first one month before introducing cassava. Root and Tuber Expansion Program, Rivers State, made strong representations in favour of the intercrop system especially for small scale farming in addition to the following advantages: (i) Optimum land utilization; improved nutrition for the family from the crop combination; reduction in pest and disease severity common in sole cropping; increased overall yield from the various crops in the mixture; and the farmer realizes regular and increased income in a cropping season due to the different gestation periods of the crops.

In Nigeria, cocoyam with its high yield, high nutritional quality and relative ease of production, has continued to lag behind other root and tuber crops in popularity and wide acceptability (Mbanaso & Enyinnaya, 1991).  Okwuowulu (2000) observed that the decline in the cultivation of edible cocoyams (colocasia esculenta (L) schott and xanthosoma was global. Explaining this, Ohiri, Nwokocha, Okwuowulu, and Chukwu, (1996) noted that in Nigeria, only 24% of the croppable land for cocoyam was cultivated. Zuhar and Hunter (2000) reported that despite the importance of taro (colocasia) in the diet of the Mal-divens, there were trends indicating a decline in production in recent times. Back home, Okorji and Obiechina (1985) and Okoye (2006) observed that resource allocation was significantly lower than for yam and cassava.

Table 1.1 shows the estimated average output and yield of cocoyam produced in Nigeria between 1970 and 2013.

Table:   1.1 Trends of cocoyam production in Nigeria (1970 -2013)

Estimated average output (production) of Cocoyam    Estimated  yield per hectare
Year Mean (mt) Yield (Tonnes)
1970 – 1974 1040 .8 41,848
1975 – 1979 339.2 38,933
1980 – 1984 237.8 31,829
1985 – 1989 448.6 42,831
1990 – 1994 938.8 50,349
1995 – 1999 2,373.3 61,117
2000 – 2004 4,223.6 68,521
2005 – 2009 4,791.5 71,465
2010 – 2013 3,280.7 53,316

Source:  Food and Agricultural organization FAO (2014).

As shown in Table 1.1, from 1970 to 1984, the average output declined sharply from 1040.8mt (1970 – 1974) to 237.8mt (1980 – 1984). Interestingly, there was steady increase in the average output from 448.6mt (1985 – 1989) to 4,791.5mt during 2005 – 2009 period. This high output figure, however was short-lived as it dropped to 3,280.7mt in 2010 – 2013 season. It can be explained that these differences in the average output and hence marketed output in the recent years might be connected with the research efforts of the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike in developing    disease resistant and high yielding varieties (Enyinnaya, 1992). Also, NRCRI (2003) specifically reported that through the contribution of the research institute about nine cultivars of cocoyam were identified in Nigeria. These were NXs 001, NXs 002, NXs 003, NXs 004, Nce 002, Nce 003, Nce 004, Nce 005 and Nce 006.

On yield per hectare, Table 1.1 also revealed that there had been unsteady yield records. For example there was a slight drop in yield per hectare 41,848 in 1970 – 1974 to 38,933 in 1975 – 1979 period, significant decline (31,829) in 1980 – 1984. However, there was a tremendous increase from 42,831 in 1985 – 1989 to 71,465 in 2005 – 2009 period. This high yield figure, as in the case of output was short lived as it dropped to 53,316 in 2010 – 2013 season. As explained earlier on, it is worthy of note that increases recorded (though unsteady) were due to the research efforts of the NRCRI, Umudike.

From an earlier study, IITA (1980) reported that the nutritional value, taste and labour requirement in food preparation and market value gave cocoyam an economic edge over cassava. Like other tropical root crops, cocoyams have very high potential for supplying large quantities of utilizable calories and also very important sources of protein as shown in Table 1.2.


Table 1.2 indicates that cocoyam is a rich source of carbohydrate which provides the energy for man’s physical and mental activities and protein for body building. Cocoyam, as portrayed, compares favourably with cassava and yams, and in some aspects excel them in these nutrients. NBS (2007) reported national outputs of cocoyam by states ranging between 1.56 million metric tonnes to 2.15 million metric tonnes throughout the 12 year period 1994/95 – 2005/06. The report indicated that the first 10 states leading in cocoyam production in Nigeria were Ondo (228.63mt), Ekiti (225.70mt), Cross River (220.30mt), Enugu (211.51mt), Osun (194.73), Anambra (150.12mt), Abia (141.95mt), Imo (129.82mt), Akwa Ibom (111.58mt), and Rivers (105.56mt). It was also shown that Kaduna with 0.37mt was the least among the producing states while 16 states did not produce cocoyam.

Table 1.2:  Total Nutrients obtained from a daily per capital consumption of 2kg of some prepared food.

Food                  Gm. Amino Acid 100gm of protein                                 Calorie          Protein

                                                                                                    Values (cal/   content on

                                                                                                       100gm)         dry matter basis

                          Protein  Lysine  Methonine  Halfcyotaine


Cassava             20           2.9              0.7                   0.0             376-391                 1%

Yams                 30           4.5              1.2                   0.2             371-383                 NA

Sweet Potato    20            4.6              1.5                   0.0             NA                                    NA

Cocoyam           44           4.2              1.1                   0.4             373-399                 5-5.6%

Source:  Lyonga and Nzietchueng (1986); and Arene (1987).


In the south-south geopolitical zone, the price of cocoyam was highest in Bayelsa State. The price variation in Rivers State ranked 5th in the zone but was the 6th in the nation. This showed that marketing of cocoyam was very important to people in the south-south zone including Rivers State. The price in Bayelsa ranged from N 6.65 per kg to N 21.74 from 1996 to 2006, while that of Rivers State ranged from N 4.75 to N 17.37 for the same period. (NBS, 2007).

According to Echebiri (2004), cocoyam ranks third as the most valuable root crop in Nigeria, second in Cameroon and first in Ghana. The national annual production of cocoyam was estimated at 1.6 million tonnes valued at about N600 million (Chinaka & Arene, 1987; and Onwueme, 1987).  Currently, Nigeria is one of the world’s largest producers (FAO, 2006) accounting for about 37% of total world output of 3.5 million metric tonnes and harvested from about 700,000 hectares of land out of the total arable land of 27,900,000 hectares.


Saying that cocoyam is an important staple food in Rivers State, is just stating the obvious. It is one of the major root crops in the State and plays an important role in the diet (nutrition), health, economic and cultural (traditional) life of some people in the State. It contributes to the farm income of most farmers especially women in the agricultural zones. The common types are the xanthosoma  sagittifolium and colocasia esculenta spp. It ranked 3rd among the five important staple food crops in Rivers State. It serves as substitute for yam in some localities especially among the Ogbas, Ekpeyes and Etches in the state. It is mainly traditionally processed, and utilized in boiled, roasted, fried and cooked as porridge alone or in combination with beans or with the leaves serving as vegetable. It is also pounded as fufu. The corms or cormels are used as soup thickeners generally and, most importantly, for preparing a special native soup, “Rivers special,” prepared with assorted sea foods (periwinkles, prawns, fresh fish, etc),  among the riverine people. The regularity and intensity of the consumption of cocoyam underscores its importance (as a strong food staple) for breakfast, lunch or dinner among the people especially the rural dwellers of the producing communities.

In the cultural setting, cocoyams have been associated with some occasions and ceremonies in some localities in the state. They are used in their various forms as special dish to entertain visitors during certain traditional occasions. Some localities in Etche local government area of the state prepare various dishes during traditional burial ceremonies of deceased women which, according to them, have some traditional undertone. Apart from cocoyam corms and cormels, the leaves are used as important vegetables. They are also used as coverings for some fruits and vegetables such as kolanut, garden egg and okra. Cocoyam is also known to be highly medicinal. For example, they are known to be used for the treatment of difficult (cancerous) wounds. It is also known unofficially to be used for the treatment of diabetes. It is reported among the Ogonis of Rivers State that a child suffering from high fever is taken to a cocoyam farm very early in the morning before sunrise. The dews on the leaves when applied on the body of the child are capable of bringing the temperature to normal. It is also asserted that corms or cormels, when grated and applied on any swollen part of the body as a result of unknown injury, boil or poison are capable of causing the area or that part of the body to form and release puss which will eventually result in the healing of that affected part of the body.  Though in very insignificant number, they are used to offer sacrifices to deities by

some people. It is also asserted in some traditional settings that cocoyams (especially colocasia spp) is a very powerful spiritual instrument used to prevent or neutralise powers of witches and wizards. It is believed that cocoyams, when placed on roofs, ceilings, or certain parts of living homes, prevent these powers from operating. There are few traditional ceremonies localised (and trivial) especially among the Etches in which cocoyam is used to appease the spirit of dead women.

However, cocoyam suffers from milder form of low esteem by some people in the State who regard it as food for the poor.   There are also some isolated cases (by few families) especially among the Ogbas that forbid cocoyam out rightly and will not touch or go close to cocoyam not to talk of eating it.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Food security is known to be critical to human development. However, Nigeria is not food secure (Adepoju and Awodunmuyila 2008). Little wonder therefore, that the clarion call to achieve food security in Nigeria has attracted a pitiable urgent attention for a state of emergency in the Nigerian food industry. This has generated increased interest in research, production, marketing, and consumption of cocoyam which is one major staple food among rural and urban dwellers (Okoye, Asumgha &Mbanaso, 2006). However, much is still needed to be done in areas of processing (both traditional and modern), marketing, including institutions and problems encountered by marketers. Food security though brilliantly debated by scholars and other stakeholders locally and nationally, remains undeniably a candidate for a pro-active approach. This explains why it is specified under the millennium development goals that the population of food insecure in Africa must be reduced by half by the year 2015 (Adekpoju & Awodunmuyila, 2008).

Food insecure is the number of chronically undernourished people. Food security, implies that food must be affordable (especially to the poor) and available throughout the year to sustain household energy and health and to meet nutritional requirements. With 2015 a few months away, efforts at achieving this goal, though widely debated have remained at the nursery stage. The issue of population explosion, coupled with poor distribution of food, have been identified as contributing substantially to world’s greatest problems today. One of such food bedeviled by poor distribution is cocoyam. About 280 million people in the world eat cocoyam – mainly colocasia and xanthosoma species (Lyonga & Nzietchuena, 1986). Cocoyam is one of Nigeria’s staple food. It contributes to Nigeria’s food security requirements and is a source of income to several small holding farmers and large number of traders. Like other tropical root crops, cocoyams have very high potential for supplying large quantities of utilizable calories and very important sources of protein as shown in Table 1.2.

Due to poor documentation, the totality of published scientific work on cocoyam is insignificant when compared with those of rice, maize,, cowpea or cassava and yam. As noted elsewhere, even with cocoyam lagging behind those other staples as a candidate for scientific research, effort on cocoyam have been pitiably limited to production research. Endorsing this, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD, 2000) annual report showed that the limited research work on cocoyam was primarily due to reduction in the number of available scientists in the National Root Crop Research Institute currently involved in the work. Neglecting marketing and consumption, which are catalysts for expanding production is detrimental to development. As showed by Adesope, Awoniyi and  Awoyinka (2006), agricultural development has been constrained by poor marketing of commodities. Although there are many buyers and sellers, the marketing and pricing information transmission mechanisms are inefficient as noted by Dittoh, 1994.

Also, there have been severe negative effects on the income of the farmers arising from low prices of agricultural products leading to low investments and production as observed by Okwuowulu (2000). Marketing efficiency can help to reduce the downward trend by reducing or removing market inefficiencies such that farmers can earn more income from their production. Okoh and Egbon (2005) examined the integration of Nigeria’s rural and urban foodstuff markets with a holistic approach. Many studies (Onu & Okunmadewa, 2008; Babatunde & Oyatoye, 2006) on market efficiency involving specific foodstuffs in Nigeria have concentrated mainly on a number of agricultural produce excluding cocoyam. Onu and Okunmadewa, (2008) examined market conduct of cotton in Nigeria and found that flaws in the market, such as fraud, pre-emption as manifested by the buyers, unfair tactics by both buyers and sellers and undesirable collaboration, marred the market efficiency. Could such problems exist in cocoyam markets? Babatunde and Oyatoye (2006) examined the market efficiency of maize in Kwara State and found that marketing margin and efficiency varied from one local government to another. Does similar trend characterise cocoyam market in Rivers State? What factors account for such variations where they exist? Abdusalam, Olukosi, Ogunbilie and Voh (2005) examined cross – border trade of maize and cowpea between Nigeria and Niger Republic. But the case of cocoyam efficiency in Nigerian markets (Rivers State inclusive) is yet to be examined.

Undeniably, there is a critical literature gap on cocoyam production and more significantly on its marketing in the study area. Absence of consumer – focused marketing, lack of astute understanding of what consumers want and the inability to deliver cocoyam in better storable forms that ensures the availability of cocoyam all year round in Rivers State deserve attention.

As the discussion on the problem of providing adequate food in quantity and quality continues, Nigeria and Rivers State in particular can improve in her cocoyam production by understanding the dynamics of the domestic cocoyam marketing and assessing its viability. As highlighted earlier on, although many studies have been done in Nigeria on production of other root  and tuber crops like yam, cassava, irish and sweet potatoes, fewer studies have been carried out on cocoyam production and little or nothing on cocoyam marketing in Rivers State. Therefore, this study intends to supply information to close this knowledge gap.


1.3       Objectives of the Study

This study, in broad terms, aimed at evaluating the systems, economic performance and challenges involved in cocoyam marketing in Rivers State, Nigeria. Specifically, the study was designed to:

  1. describe cocoyam marketing system;
  2. identify the market structure and conduct for cocoyam;
  • determine marketing margin along with the profit efficiencies of cocoyam middlemen;
  1. determine the influence of socio-economic attributes of cocoyam marketers on their profit efficiencies;
  2. examine the factors affecting the wholesale and retail prices of cocoyam;
  3. examine the socio-economic factors affecting the marketing margins of cocoyam marketers; and
  • identify the problems faced by cocoyam marketers.

1.4       Test of Hypotheses

Three null hypotheses were formulated to guide the attainment of the study objectives. These included:

Ho: Marketing costs do not exert significant influence on the retail and    wholesale prices of cocoyam in the study area.

Ho2 :    Factors affecting wholesale and retail prices of cocoyam in the study area do not vary significantly from each other.

Ho3 :    There is no significant difference in the marketing margins and the socio-economic attributes of cocoyam wholesalers and retailers in the study area.

1.5  Justification of the Study

Edet and Nsikak (2004) and FMARD (2000) made strong representations positing a remarkable significance for this type of study by pointing out the paucity of data and information on cocoyam. Findings of this study will therefore provide information on structure, conduct and performance of cocoyam marketing that policy makers need to formulate accurate policies and actions on cocoyam marketing in Rivers State   and generally in Nigeria vis-a-vis areas of processing into new and more acceptable forms, distribution, consumption as well as resource allocation and management.

As there is a dearth of information on cocoyam marketing in Rivers State, findings and recommendations from this study will be of benefit to students and researchers and will perhaps, form a basis for further studies on related topics. Farmers and marketers will benefit by understanding the problems of cocoyam marketing, and cocoyam market structure in Rivers state. This will help them to know how best to sell their product. Agricultural Extension staff will be able to give better advice to farmers and marketers of cocoyam by considering the findings and recommendations of this study. Researchers interested in agricultural marketing can benefit by updating their knowledge on cocoyam marketing.

1.6       Limitations of the Study:

The work could not really gather data over years because it is cross-sectional (focused on one production year of the marketers). Time series data were not kept because the traders were not very commercial or highly educated to keep formal records of their transactions over years.  However, efforts were made to get reliable data through interviews and one – on – one administration of questionnaire to respondents. The validity of the information given is largely dependent on the perception of the respondents on the issues raised in the questionnaire as this could influence the quality of information obtained from the traders. However, extra effort was made by the researcher to cross-check responses with market trends in the state. Sometimes, information from traders who are mostly illiterates could be erroneous.


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