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Imports, low prices hurt maize farmers

  • Current market price can’t sustain production, experts say

Crisis looms in the maize production line as local farmers grapple with the continued fall in the price of the produce across the nation’s markets, Daily Trust investigations have shown.

The situation is being compounded by the unabated importation of maize despite its being locally produced with surplus.

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In 2017, some multinational agro-companies were given temporary waivers to import maize in order to bridge the gap in poultry feeds production.

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Though, government sources said the waiver only covers the period of the feed crisis, the importers are still doing brisk business at the expense of local producers.

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Watchers in the sector believe that because of the powerful nature of the importers, they have continued the importation un-checked, which is forcing down the price of maize as well as causing glut in the local market.

“These people, mostly multinational agro-companies, are so powerful. They operate like cabal and they can virtually get what they want from the government even if it is going to affect  locals, who only live on what they get from their farms,’’ an agriculturist, Mr. John Oyebode, told Daily Trust on phone Tuesday night.

bleeding because of their inability to find good prices for their produce, the waivers granted to some companies to bring in thousands of metric tonnes remains active.

The National President of Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Alhaji Bello Abubakar Funtua, had observed that the modest contributions of maize farmers, if complemented by other large-scale maize users, will comfortably create more than one million on-and-off-farm employment in the maize sector alone.

He said importation of maize in any form is counterproductive to agricultural development and should be discouraged in its entirety.

Another maize farmer, Pastor Tunji Adenola, who is a former national president of the association, described importation as economic sabotage coordinated by enemies of Nigeria.

“We are organized in such a way that whatever quantity of maize someone needs, we get it for them. Why are they interested in importation when we have this produce here?” he queried.

Maize everywhere with no buyers

Funtua raised the alarm that there is glut of maize in the market with farmers even begging to sell what they have at the current price without buyers.

He said maize production has increased from 15 million metric tonnes in 2015 to 20 million metric tonnes in 2018, adding that the required quantity of maize by all processors in Nigeria was eight million tonnes.

A maize farmer, James Kolo, also expressed worry that for some time now, farmers have faced a serious challenge because when they produce maize, the poultry, and fish farmers, including the breweries complained that our maize had a high concentration of aflatoxins, which affect their farms.

“As I’m speaking with you, we have on ground – from last year’s Anchor Borrower the programme, over 10,000 metric tonnes of maize that have been returned as payment by farmers but we have been unable to sell it,” he stated.

Also speaking recently in Abuja on the subject, the Managing Director, Bank of Agriculture, Mr Kabiru Mohammed, said the bank’s strategic cooperation with maize farmers resulted in massive production.

“As I’m talking to you now, there is a glut in the market on maize because so much has been produced,’’ he said.

Why the current price can’t sustain maize production

A look at the cost of production per hectare in Nigeria shows that there are very little farmers can make under the current price regime.

An agronomist, Shehu Arowolo, said for a maize farmer to record gain, the price of 100kg bag of maize must be from N10,000 and above, insisting that no meaningful gain can be recorded under the current price of between N7,500 and N8000 depending on the market.

He gave an estimated cost of production per hectare to be around N314,000 which averagely can give 40 bags of maize or even less.

In the breakdown, he said the cost of land preparation including plough, harrow and ridges can cost N100,000, seeds both hybrids and others- N10,000, Agro chemicals-N26,000, Labour involving planting, thrashing and bagging-N100,000 and transportation-N18,000.

The agronomist, who observed that adequate fertiliser is required for successful maize farming, said an hectare would require about eight bags of NPK fertiliser, which go for N9,000 per bag in the open market and two Urea bags of fertiliser to topdress after four weeks and it costs N7,000 per bag. He said the total amount needed for fertiliser would be around N100,000.

Mr Arowolo said if that hectare gives about 40 bags, which is not likely, the farmer will sell them at N320,000 base at the current market price of N8,000 per bag.

The agronomist said it was discouraging for farmer to get N320,00 from an hectare of farm he spends about N314,000 on.

He said all things being equal, from the estimate, the farmer would only make N6,000 profit throughout the whole year.

“How do you expect such farmer to remain in production when there are other crops he can grow and reap more? That is the challenge in the maize subsector today and no one is talking,’’ he said.

The National President of Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Alhaji Bello Abubakar Funtua, also believes that the current market price of maize in the market can’t sustain production.

“Presently, the price of maize is not more than N80,000 per tonne and even far less in some areas. At N80,000 per tonne it can be obtained in markets in South-South, South-West or South-East….in the northern region it is less than that,” Funtua stated.

Last year, it cost more than N120, 000 in some places but this year, there is a sharp drop and the gap is widening as the prices are dropping even further to N7,500 – N 7,000 per 100kg bag.

“The farmers are begging for at least N10,000 per 100kg to enable them go back to production but that plea might not see the light of day because of the waiver given to some companies to import, coupled with the country’s weak strategic grains reserve system,’’ he said.

The ways out

Experts believe that for the government to address the problem, the waivers approved for some people to import maize must be revoked to give room for local patronage.

An Agronomist, Mr Shehu Arowolo, said thousands of local maize farmers must be protected to guarantee self-sufficiency in maize production.

He also called for the strengthening of the Nigeria Commodity Exchange on where the farmers can sell their grains with minimum price tag.

The Managing Director, Bank of Agriculture, Mr Kabiru Mohammed, had also called on government to come to the rescue of the farmers through its strategic reserves programme that is being carried out on a yearly basis.

“The Federal Government should, as a matter of urgency, give out contract for the supply of such grains to the farmers. When that is done, farmers will have the market for their goods and they will be encouraged to do more,” the MD said.

 

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