1.1 Background to the Study

One of the most serious problems confronting the world today is the problem of food shortage and diet deficits (FAO, 2010). A significant proportion of the population of the developing countries cannot afford the traditional diet such as yams which they cherish highly. Instead economic circumstances force them to depend almost entirely on cereal crops and tubers like cassava. Emphasis has always been placed on increased food production without giving much thought to the marketing of the food items. Production is never complete until the food items get to the consumers in the form, place and time they desire. The need for effective    marketing of farm products has never been more pressing than it is today as a result of increase in population (Oguoma, 2010). This is born out of the current inflation and economic recession facing both the developed and developing countries. The less developed countries appear to be worse off because of the dual nature of their problem that of inefficient production methods and poor methods of marketing what has been produced. (Asumugha, Njoku, Okoye, and Akinpelu, 2009).

      One of the outstanding problems facing developing countries is that of inability of increasing food production to keep pace with demand. The major means of encouraging farmers to increase food production is the provision of proper and adequate incentives to them usually expressed in the size of their farm income. This can be achieved through a well-integrated   marketing system. Unfortunately much attention has not been paid to the marketing sector which plays as an important role in any economy like the actual production of goods and services (Migpap and Audu, 2012).

  Production refers to the process of creating an economic good or service from two or more other goods or services (Essang, 1981). Yam production therefore refers to the general processes that are involved in the cultivation and distribution of yams.

            Marketing has been defined in various ways by different scholars and professional     bodies. The London Institute of Marketing (1966) cited in Kotler (2000), defined it as the management function which organizes and directs all those business activities involved in assessing and converting consumer purchasing power into effective demand for specific      products or services and moving them to the final consumers. The American Marketing Association defined marketing as the performance of business activities that direct the flow of goods and services to the consumers (Kotler, 2000). The Japan Marketing Association (2007) defined marketing as the movement of goods and services from the producer via the wholesalers and retailers to the final consumers.

            The following scholars have defined marketing at different times thus; Olukosi and    Isitor (2005) defined it as the route taken by a product as it moves from the producer to the    ultimate consumers. This is a combination of transportation, storage and organization of persons who play some parts in the transfer of goods and services from the producer to the consumers, (Olukosi and Isitor, 2005:72). Similarly, Gadde and Snehota (2009) saw marketing as the process of bridging the gap between production and consumption (Gadde and Snehota, 2009:17). Also Rajan (2009) stated that marketing involves the creation of utility, form, time, place, processing, storage, transportation and exchange of ownership.

            On the definition of structure of marketing Onakomaiya (1975) expressed that, it is   concerned with the organization and channels involved in the distribution and exchange of goods and services. Also Hays (1998) defined the structure and pattern of marketing as the    spatial location of commodities, the channels of distribution and the organization of markets. Similarly Adalemo (1975) maintained that the pattern of marketing is centred on the periodicity and marketing rings involved in exchange of goods and services. In his own view, Arene (2008) stated that agricultural marketing involve legal, physical and economic services that make it possible to move products from the producers to the consumers at an agreeable price to both for effecting a change of ownership or possession.

Bosena, Bekabil, Berhan and Dirk (2011) researched on food crop production in Ethiopia and explained the structure of marketing as the overall performance of the conduct of trading activities. In this study, our definition of structure and pattern of yam production and marketing therefore refers to the processes of cultivation, transportation, storage, organization of markets, channel of distribution and exchange of yams between the producers and the consumers. Yams belong to plant species of the genus Dioscorea. It is a native of the warmer regions in both Northern and Southern hemispheres. This thick tropical vine tuber is popular in Africa, the West Indies, parts of Asia, South and Central America  (Onwueme, 1978; Ngale, 2008). There are over 150 species of yams grown throughout the world. In the year 2008, the global yam production was approximately 48.7 million tonnes, out of which 76 per cent were grown in Africa (Ngale, 2006; FAO, 2010). Nigeria produced about 70 per cent of the world’s total yam production (FAO, 2010). Nigeria is the highest producer of yam in Africa and about two-third of the production comes from Benue State. (Benue State Agricultural and Rural     Development Authority, 2005). Other yam producing countries include Corte d’ Ivoire, which produced 10.2 percent, Ghana 8.0 per cent, Republic of Benin produced 4.3 per cent.