Closing the Maize Demand & Supply Gap in Nigeria

Gilbert Ekwugbe

Maize farming provides a significant source of income for many farming households, and it is also an important part of many families’ diets. The average Nigerian consumes maize or its derivatives daily with major output from 19 States including Kaduna, Adamawa, Taraba, Anambra, Benue, Kwara, Yobe, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo States.

In 2021, Nigeria‚Äôs maize output reached its highest level since the country’s independence in 1960, signaling a significant step forward for a country that has struggled for decades with a subpar domestic food supply. The maize production output increased from 12.8 to 13.94 million metric tons between 2020 and 2021 and propelled the country to become Africa’s largest maize producer followed by South Africa, Egypt, and Ethiopia.

Nigeria’s agricultural sector currently accounts for a sizable portion of the country’s GDP as agriculture contributed 22.35 percent of total GDP between January and March 2021 and upping it by nearly one percent from the previous year. The agricultural GDP of Nigeria is entirely made up of maize, which accounts for 5.88 percent of the country’s total.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, maize output increased by 16% in 2021 over the previous year. The increase comes a year after the Central Bank of Nigeria prohibited the use of government-supplied foreign exchange for maize imports in an effort to reduce imports and boost domestic output. The figure is also significant at a time when global food scarcity is becoming a concern as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Despite this stride, local output has trailed consumption for years, sparking importation and having dire consequences for the Naira and job creation. Hybrid maize has been identified as the panacea for closing the maize demand and supply chain gap in Nigeria. This solution could well turn around the fortune of the country in more ways than one.

Hybrid seeds have improved genetics, a higher production potential, and unique trait combinations to combat diseases and poor growing conditions. The quality of hybrid seed, on the other hand, is highly dependent on-field production methods, both in terms of quality assurance and proper agronomic management. If grown properly, hybrids generally outperform open-pollinated varieties in terms of yield. They are uniform in colour, maturity, and other plant characteristics, allowing farmers to perform certain operations, such as harvesting, simultaneously. They are easier and faster to grow than heirlooms, and they produce plants with larger fruit, higher yields, disease resistance, and longer shelf life.

In a March 2022 Punch publication, agriculture, and seed specialist, Brighton Karume, urged Nigerian maize farmers to adopt hybrid seed varieties in their operations, stating that the country’s low adoption of improved seed varieties is reducing maize production.

According to him, only about 10% of Nigerian farmers use hybrid seeds, which has made it difficult for the country to meet the national requirement for maize output. He argued further that if maize farmers use hybrid maize varieties, Nigeria can double its production capacity and become self-sufficient.

Furthermore, at the recently concluded Nigeria Maize Conference, the Head of Product Supply for Africa, Bayer South Africa, Johan Du Plessis, backed Mr Karume’s claim, noting that hybrid maize adoption in South Africa, Malawi, and Zimbabwe is between 50 and 75 percent, while Nigeria, despite being Africa’s leading maize producer, is still struggling to improve on its 10 percent adoption rate.

According to Karume, if the foregoing is any indication, Nigeria’s maize demand and supply gap could be closed if all stakeholders collaborated. As a result, Nigeria’s effort to become a global figure in maize production will be sustained, and the country’s economy will benefit significantly.

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