Maize prices rise 83% on the back of armyworm invasion

The continued devastation by armyworms of the nation’s maize crop, a key input in many manufacturing companies and the poultry industry, has pushed maize prices to a one year high, say farmers.

According to Novus Agro, an agro commodity price tracker, a metric ton of maize now sells for N183,130 in Lagos, as against N100,000 per ton in June last year, before the armyworm outbreak in July. This shows an 83 percent increase in maize prices.
BusinessDay findings show that the price of dry maize has remained at an average of N140,000 per ton, across the country, since July 2016.
As a result, poultry farmers, producers of feeds, flour, noodles, biscuits, brewers, starch, confectioners, among others, who use maize as a raw material at factories, have been hard hit by the price increase, as this has shot-up their production cost.
“The armyworm infestation, which affected a lot of farmlands in the South-West is still ravaging farmlands, especially in the Northern region now,” said Tunji Ademola, national president, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAN) told BusinessDay in a telephone response to questions.
“Farmers are putting measures in place to ensure their farms are not affected by the outbreak so as not to suffer a loss on their investments,” Ademola said.
He stated that the government has not done enough in helping farmers combat the pest, saying that despite that chemicals and insecticides were procured by government, farmers are yet to get any to fight the outbreak.
A total of 22 states have been affected out of the country’s 36 states, since the outbreak was recorded last June and is currently ravaging maize farmland in Funtua-Kastina State, according to a wire report.
Many losses have been incurred in the affected states and farmers have predicted another decline in the country’s 2017 maize production.
Nigeria is Africa’s second largest maize producer, after South Africa, churning out about 10.5 million metric tons per annum, with a demand of 15 million metric tons per annum, leaving a supply-demand gap of 4.5 million tons per annum, according to data from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
Maize is the leading cereal grown in Nigeria, closely followed by sorghum and rice.
Afioluwa Mogaji, chief executive officer, X-ray Farms, said the outbreak of the armyworm since last year, has affected the availability of dry maize in the market.
“The demand for dry maize is still very high and that is why the prices have remained high too,” said Mogaji.
He stated that most farmers could not manage the armyworm outbreak, adding that extension agents who are supposed to educate them are currently unavailable.
Armyworm, a pest, is part of the order of Lepidoptera and wreaks havoc on crops if left to multiply. Its name is derived from its feeding habits and it eats up the stems of crops, as well as the leaves.
Scientists are still unravelling the armyworm infestation in the country.
Sam Ajala, maize breeder at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), who has been working on armyworm control, disclosed that although its infestation has not been recorded as attaining such a damaging level before now, the present situation has presented opportunities for a lasting control.
A total of N8.3 billion worth of maize was imported into the country in first quarter 2017, with the bulk of it from the United States.


Josephine Okojie