Maize Production: Between Prohibitive Price and Importation Shouts
Despite the nationwide buzzers for self-sufficiency in food production, the Delta state chapter of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) in June beckoned on the Federal Government to permit the importation of maize into the country. This demand from the association came as a huge surprise, especially with the country edging towards attaining self-worth in producing what it consumes, as President Muhammadu Buhari had envisaged in the past. The association, making a plea for its clamour, bemoaned that the supply by local maize producers was below that which was demanded, amid the incessant hike in price. “A tonne of maize which used to sell for N97,000 has climbed to N165,000, while soybean has increased from N110,000 per tonne to N123,000 within the last few months “We appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to allow immediate importation of maize into Nigeria since our local maize farmers cannot meet up with the demand required consumers,” State Chairman of the association, Chief Alfred Mrakpor was quoted to have said. In October last year, President Buhari had ordered the closure of Nigeria’s land border to checkmate the influx of expired food items and enhance the country’s capacity in the production of its own food. The development had been cheered by many, essentially by several Nigerian farmers, who had heaped praise on the president for taking such a bold and purposeful step. As one who shared in this feat, General Manager of TOPFEEDS, Mr. Austin Dalyop said that the Federal Government’s decision to temporarily close the land borders has offered Nigerians the opportunity to invest hugely in the agricultural value chains Dalyop urged the president as well as investors to ensure the production of rice, maize, soya beans, and cassava, in order to meet the demand, and explore the positive development abetted by the closure. Still on the directive, Registrar of the Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS), Prof. Eustace Iyayi said that owing to the Federal Government’s decision to temporarily close the land borders, Nigeria had saved about N50 billion naira from the poultry industry since the policy took flight. From his analysis, millions of direct and indirect jobs from entire poultry value chains have been created since the border closure took in effect in 2019. Not throwing caution to the wind from an economic angle, Prof. Job Nmadu, the President of the Nigerian Association of Agricultural Economists (NAAE) welcomed the border closure but advised that the government set up structures to protect Nigerians from its negative effects. To cut short the endless list, a policy cannot be as good as having any hurdles at all; the border closure directive has come with its own. On face value, the benefits of the border closure cannot be surmounted by the minuscule challenges it embodies. Economies of Nigerian Maize According to a survey by FAOSTAT in 2014, Maize is the second most cultivated crop in Nigeria in terms of area harvested with 5.8million Ha, second to Cassava’s 7.1 million Ha. Nigeria and South Africa are the largest producers in Africa. The International Grains Council placed Nigeria’s 2018/19 maize production estimate at 11.0 million tonnes, which equates to a 16.1 percent share of SSA’s maize harvest. About 50 percent of the maize produced is consumed by the animal feed sector, with poultry claiming as much as 98 percent of the total feed produced in Nigeria. The aforementioned has proved the importance of maize to the animal industry, especially for poultry farmers. The price of maize affect greatly the cost of production of animals – a cost that any rational farmer would ensure is kept at the lowest rate. Maize is a critical component of animal feeds, and at such a hike in price would, therefore, increase the cost of poultry animals and their end products. This situation on its consequential terms would erode the merits of the ban on the importation of animal products which was very well-intended. No doubt that the penetrating stripes of scaling price of maize, and its resultant economic effects to the poultry industry, informed the shout for the importation of maize by the Delta state PAN. Howbeit, is cutting the head an antidote for a throbbing headache? Maize Importation: An Ill-conceived Messiah From an economic standpoint, price inflation often occurs when demand for a product is higher than the supply. It then begs the question: Is Nigeria deficient in maize production? According to the Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria, the production of the commodity increased from eight million tonnes to 20 million tonnes between 2015 and 2018. Although the discrepancy between the present level of production and the actual demand is unknown, there has been a significant boost in the maize sub-sector, Maize is highly competed for by both the human population and livestock and it goes without saying that a skyrocketing demand is a present and futuristic reality. It beckons on the government to strengthen investment in the sector and formulate bespoke policies to increase the production of the commodity and thus close the gap between demand and supply. This coincides with the minds of Nigerians on AgroNigeria’s Twitter poll: “Should the Federal Government permit the importation of maize to supplement fall in domestic supply, as suggested by PAN?” “Provide subsidy” received more clicks (42%) from participants. Reactions from contributors suggested that the government provides subsidies to boost farmers’ resolve in increasing production to meet local demand.