This year, maize farmers have recorded significant boost in the harvest of maize even with the attack of a devastating pest called ‘Fall Armyworm’, which spread from other countries in sub-Saharan Africa into Nigeria.
Although there is no reliable statistics as to the quantity of maize production this season, testimonies from farmers and increased activities regarding maize in most grains markets across the country points to at that direction.
Nigeria’s domestic demand for maize is estimated at 15.5 million metric tonnes according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development but the nation (at the time of the estimate, more than four years ago) was producing 10.5 million metric tonnes, leaving the country with a deficit of 5 million metric tonnes.
However, many observers believe this statistics is no longer realistic because of population growth, expansion in the feed industry and other consumables, which will translate to increase in demand for maize.
Before harvest this year, maize went up to an all-time record high with a 100kg bag going for as high as N21, 000 in most places. Being an essential ingredient in poultry feeds, the cost of feeds skyrocketed beyond the reach of most smallholder farmers, leading to many commercial farms shutting down.
Few months ago, the story changed as farmers recorded their golden harvest in many years, crashing down the price of maize across the country – something that pleases poultry farmers, consumers who use maize as staple food and other industrial users.
Currently, the cost of a-100kg bag of maize differs but is lower than pre-harvest period. It costs N8, 500 in Sheme Market in Katsina State, N15000 in Mabera Market, Sokoto State, N13, 000 in Wadata Market, Markudi, Benue State, N8, 000 in Dawanau Market in Kano, N11,000 in Doma Market, Nasarawa State.
The implication of this variation in prices is that farmers in some places will make more money and are likely to cultivate the product more next year than in some places; this, some say, will create a major gap and hamper sustained production drive.
While the consumers heave a sigh of relief over the prices, farmers are indifferent despite good harvest because of two things: news of maize importation and crashing prices; and they want answers to some key questions threatening them.
First, who are the faces behind massive importation of maize? Second, what is the rationale behind government asking them to cultivate maize and at the same time granting license to some people to import the product? Third, how will government come in to ensure they make profit especially in view of the fact that the cost of production in the last two years has increased significantly?
Expressing serious concern on the development, the president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc Kabiru Ibrahim, opined that maize farmers in the country may not produce next year if importation is allowed to continue.
In an interview in Abuja after a joint World Press Conference, the farmers’ president called the attention of government to the worrisome situation.