Today, the U.S. market for Ghanaian yams is supplied by a small group of U.S.-based importers who control about 75% of the yam export market from Ghana.
Ghanaian yams are brought to the U.S. by ocean freight with a typical transit time of approximately 30 days. They are then distributed by truck throughout the U.S. The supply of yams in Ghana is very consistent and sufficiently large to satisfy domestic (Ghanaian) consumption and foreign demand (the largest foreign market is the U.S.). However, despite a well-established and growing market in the U.S. and more than ample supply coming out of Ghana, the U.S. market for Ghanaian yams is in crisis.
This crisis exists as a direct result of the time in transit between Ghana and the U.S. While there has always been some loss of product due to spoilage, it has now reached a level that is unsustainable.
A report commissioned by the Danish shipping company Maersk Line, Ltd. and the Ministry of Agriculture (Ghana) concluded that the high level of spoilage is caused by the harsh conditions imposed on the produce during more than one month at sea. With spoilage levels frequently over 50%. Every importer is suffering the same losses, resulting in a severe disruption to the market: unsold product in Ghana, insufficient supply to the U.S. market, and volatile prices. Economic losses are seen at all levels of the supply chain from the growers in Ghana right through to the end consumer.