CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background of the Study Agriculture, a major resource based activity in terms of capital and labour utilization has the potential of increasing Nigeriaâs food self sufficiency (Bamire and Amujoyegbe, 2010). Statistical evidences however show that food sufficiency ratio of Nigeria has for sometime especially from (1997-2010) been less than one. Actual yield of major food crops are lower than their potential yields (Rahji, 2012). The productive yield efficiency of yam in particular was 54.1% in 1991(FOS, 1997). Yam is, however, one of the principal root crops in Nigeria both in terms of land under cultivation and in volume and value of production. Itâs one of the carbohydrate foods that is nutritionally superior to most roots and tubers in terms of digestible proteins and minerals (Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium) Ebewore et al., 2013. Tuber crops, such as yam has high relative value per unit of land used in its cultivation when compared with other crops particularly, the cereals (Mbah, 2010). As a food crop, yam has inherent characteristics. Firstly, it is rich in carbohydrates especially starch and has a multiplicity of end use. Secondly, it is more resistant to drought, pest and disease and tolerates different climatic and edaphic conditions (Ugwumba and Omojola, 2012). Yam is an important source of income for all value chain participants. Yam comprised 32% of farmersâ gross income from crops for farmers in eastern Nigeria. The share of the value of yam farm gate sales (31%) was second only to cassava (37%) out of the nine major food crops compared in Nigeria in 2004 (Sanusi and Salmonu, 2010). The higher nutritional quality and market value commanded by yam when compared with other crops like cassava, have encouraged greater investment by the Nigerian government and foreign donors to increase production and improve yam marketing efficiencies to enhance income and food security levels for smallholders. Main initiatives include: Yam Improvement for Income and Food Security in West Africa project and the National Root and Tuber Expansion Programme (Agbaje et al., 2010). 1.2 Problem Statement Over the years, the farm hectarage of yam production has been increasing with corresponding increases in the usage of inputs. Unfortunately, the increase in output seems not to have been commensurable with those in input usage (Jonathan and Anthony, 2012). However, the Nigerian Government made concerted efforts to encourage larger investment in the agricultural sector including product such as yam for export. In 1998, the Nigerian Government initiated an Export Promotion Incentive Scheme. Under this scheme, some staple foods including yam were delisted from the export prohibition list. In 2001, the Nigerian Government initiated the Root and Tuber Expansion Program (RTEP) to improve farmersâ productivity and profits from root and tuber crops. In 2003, an export subsidy of 10% on agricultural commodities was introduced and remains in place till date (Akande and Ogundele, 2009). Despite the government initiatives, Bamire and Amijoyegbe (2010) noted, in South Western Nigeria, that there is an increasing gap between the levels of supply and demand for yam. Also, Oladeebo and Okanlawon (2010) noted that the absolute level of yam production has remained static over a decade. This static trend may not be unconnected with production resources which are not being efficiently utilized. In order to meet the level of demand, there is need to assess the level of technical efficiency and its determinants in yam production. Previous studies carried out on food crop production in Nigeria have shown that food crop farmers have low productivity because of inefficiency in resource use (Idiong et al., 2010). High cost of seed yam was the major problem of yam production in the study area. According to Spore (2011) about 35-50% of the total cost was constituted by planting material. Consequently, there has been a decline in production over the years with area under cultivation and yam output declining (Ayanwuyi et al., 2011). Meanwhile, the report of Niger State Yam Production Trend established by the Niger State Agricultural and Mechanization Development Authority from 2001 to 2012 showed that the average yam yield per hectare declined from 18.53 tonnes in 2009 to 14.12 tonnes in 2012. It was against these problems that this study was undertaken to empirically ascertain the efficiency and profitability of yam production among small-holder farmers in the study area. In view of this, the following research questions were addressed: i. What are the socioeconomic characteristics of yam farmers in the study area? ii. What are the technical, allocative and economic efficiency of yam production? iii. What are the determinants of technical efficiency in yam production? iv. What are the costs and return in yam production? And v. What are the constraints to yam production?