Farmers differ on expected maize output

For many maize farmers in Nigeria, 2015/2016 was the best year in the history of maize production in the country.
The price of maize jumped from N40,000 up to N155,000 per tonne with a 100kg bag sold between N18, 000 and N22, 000 at various markets across the country.
This was made possible by government’s refusal to grant importers the foreign exchange to purchase maize due to scarcity and its policy at encouraging domestic production.
In the 2016/2017 farming season, maize slightly fell to N140, 000 per tonne with a 100kg bag going for N12,000 to N14,000, which indicates that the last two years were better than previous years for farmers.
Currently, maize sells between N92, 000 and N120, 000 per tonne at various markets across the country-although lower than the years under review but better than pre-2014.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s statistics showed that the country’s domestic demand for maize is estimated at 15.5 million metric tonnes.
However, officials of the ministry continue to float different and unreliable statistics of domestic production estimated to be from 8 to 10.5 million metric tonnes.
But in the Grain and Feed Annual Report of the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service, Nigeria’s 2016/17 maize production was estimated at 6.8 million tons from harvested area of 3.95 million hectares, which is 4% higher from 3.8 million hectares in 2015/16, “due to high market prices and reclamation of land from insurgents.
The 2016/17 maize consumption was put “at 6.8 million tons, a decline of 500,000 tons compared to 7.3 million tons in 2015/16. Corn is largely consumed in the north, in the form of corn flour and corn grits; poultry feed demand is continuing to shift upward.
Exports to neighboring countries, like Cameroon, Niger, Benin, and Chad were around 200,000 tonnes.
In 2017/18, the country was said to have produced 6.9 million tonnes from an estimated 3.8 million hectares.
However, consumption was “projected at 6.8 million tonnes, a drop by 500,000 tons as compared with the 7.3 million tons recorded in MY2016/17.  The reason given was that the poultry sector is the major consumer of maize for feed, and many poultry farms folded up because of rising feed costs.
Maize imports are expected to decline by more than 33 percent to 200,000 tons compared to 300,000 tons noted for the previous year. Exports are also projected at 300,000 tons, a 50-percent increase as compared with 200,000 tons estimated during MY2016/17.
The National Chairman of Maize Farmers Association (MFAN), Tunji Adenola, citing government figures, predicted a 750,000 short fall for 2017/18 season as a result of importation and diseases-something other farmers’ leaders however disagreed with.
Chairman of the Maize Association of Nigeria Kaduna State chapter, Muhammad Kabir Saleh, said “we are not expecting any shortfall in the next farming season, because our farmers bought the inputs at a very cheap rate unlike in 2016, that fertiliser was very high, it went as high as N12, 000 per bag. But in 2017, because of support from the federal government, farmers were able to get fertiliser at N5, 500 to N7, 000”.
Muhammad noted that intervention programmes and training of farmers on good agricultural practices by international organisations, state governments’ ministries, and state financed Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) has significantly improved production with some farmers getting as high six tonnes per hectare. 
He explained that last year, the federal government allowed the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) to import maize in large quantities, adding that MAAN complained about it and government took appropriate action. 
“So we are very much aware that our farmers cannot satisfy Nigerians need of maize particularly for processing companies and also the poultry industry but we expect that any importation that would be made in Nigeria should be around July/August, so that we would have exhausted the one that we produced in the country,” he said. 
Muhammad expressed optimism that farmers would produce more based on availability, lower cost of inputs and a larger market for the grain. 
“You see we are expecting higher because we are always comparing our cost of production with what we are selling. As long as a farmer would produce and sell his produce, he will do it because farmers are not only producing maize for consumption only but for business. About 80% of the farmers are doing it for business,” Saleh stated. 
On the issue of army worm attacks witnessed last year, the Chairman said, “this army worm is something that came from God and it did not affect all the states of the federation, it is only three states and they held a seminar in Kaduna organised by FAO and they are doing everything to deal with the issue. The damage done by the army worm cannot affect the total production, it’s very minimal.” 
He urged government to key into agricultural mechanisation by providing tractors, planters, harvesters and other machineries that would reduce the cost of production for the farmers. 
Meanwhile, the National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabiru Ibrahim, said the basis upon which the prediction for the shortfall in supply was made was not scientific. 
“I don’t speculate. My background is science, but where you have abundance of maize, that is where maize thrives. The people do not have ready alternative.” 
He, however, stated that he was in support of the recent efforts to discourage importation of maize by anyone, especially because the country has competence for its production. 
On whether locally produced maize is not enough to meet Nigeria’s demand for the product, Ibrahim dismissed the assumption, citing current efforts by the federal government to store maize, among other grains, at the various grains reserves across the country. 
“Are you aware that government is now buying maize to keep in our silos? So what type of maize do they buy? If it is not available in the market, will they buy it?” he asked.
While it is a general view that production costs have doubled, over the last two years, experts say the government’s review of its programme on fertiliser would help to ameliorate the situation.   However, the federal government has little control over the high cost of labour, pesticides and transportation.
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that maize has become cheaper to Nigeria’s neighbours due the country’s currency devaluation.
Currently, the Anchor Borrowers Programme has been expanded to many maize-growing states in northern Nigeria, and experts believe it would  lead to high increase in domestic production, instead of decline.
Above all, the experts say government must close its doors to importation, encourage backward integration and place subsidy on the outputs not inputs.

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