Maize Farmers Oppose Calls for Importation

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By James Emejo

Maize farmers have criticised recent agitations by some groups for the importation of the commodity as a “calculated attempt to further hinder maize production” in the country.

The farmers assured that Nigeria “should be able to achieve at least 25 million metric tonnes (MMTs) of maize before the end of the year” going by the current improvement in local production capacity and funding support from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) as well as expectations that the COVID-19 pandemic would be better managed globally going forward.

The farmers also assured that modalities have already been put in place to achieve reduction in the price of maize, which hit the roof in recent times.

In November last year, the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), in response to the hike in the price of maize, called on the federal government to halt the export of soybeans, soymeal and maize with immediate effect.

They also called for the immediate importation of soybeans and maize as a stop gap measure to mitigate what they described as impending doom in the Nigerian poultry industry.

However, farmers under the umbrella of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) and the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), said they have collectively developed a strategic framework that would ensure massive production of maize in the country to help bridge the existing gap in supply value chain.

The National President of MAAN, Mr. Bello Abubakar, told journalists during a press conference in Abuja that the current high price of maize was temporary and largely brought about by the disruptions caused by COVID-19 as well as increased cost of inputs for farm activities.

Abubakar blamed the high prices on some commodity agents who hoard the product to cause an artificial scarcity.

He explained that the current hike in the price of the commodity effected commercial consumers who use maize as a key input in their production processes, especially poultry farmers and consumer goods manufacturers.

He, however, said the CBN had been striving hard to increase national production volumes of maize adding that the apex bank’s policy has been successful in opening up the agricultural sector.

Abubakar added that the federal government, through the CBN, has graciously approved the release of 300,000MT of maize grains from the Strategic Grains Reserve (SGR) to ameliorate the adverse effect of maize price hike and scarcity in the country.

“Consequently, it is needless, counterproductive and unattainable to lift ban on maize grains importation, “he said.

He said importation of maize grains into the country at thus crucial period would serve as disincentive to maize production as well as dampen the morale of farmers.

“We believe that not acceding to maize importation will aid not just attaining food security as a nation but also in creating job opportunities and fostering economic development as well.

“Finally, the action will increase local production, stimulate a rapid economic recovery, increase jobs opportunities and safeguard rural livelihoods,” he said.

On his part, the National President of MAGPAMAN, Dr. Edwin Oche, said the CBN’s massive investment in the ABP had boosted maize production from eight million metric tonnes to about 20 million metric tonnes within three years.

Oche insisted that local farmers have the capacity to grow enough maize to support industrial use and domestic consumption.

He said: “Today, we shouldn’t have been discussing this if not for the challenges encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic that affected food chains and agriculture. We will not be talking about increase in the prices of feeds, flour and all the derivatives from maize and others.

“It’s a global issue and as an association, we are dealing with it and strategically looking at the ways to ameliorate the problem by engaging the federal government and CBN and other partners to ensure we come out of it.”

“The price of maize will drop within three to four months and we are working on that.

“We are also doing the best we can to block individuals who are hoarding maize.

“We have maize stored by merchants and we are developing framework to block these people from buying from our smallholder farmers and causing unnecessary scarcity.”