BusinessDay

production slumps as farmers shift to rice

Nigeria’s maize production has dropped in recent months as farmers abandon cultivation of the crop, leading to a jump in imports of maize into the country.
“The clamour for boosting rice production is affecting maize production in the country as a lot of maize farmers are now shifting into the cultivation of rice due to government incentives to grow rice,” said AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer, X-Ray Farms Consulting Limited in a telephone interview.
“This could have a major impact on the price of maize as maize production has declined in recent months. This is why imports are fast rising, because the industries cannot get enough to feed their factories, as well as the poultry farmers. Nigeria has a comparative advantage in maize production and it serves as raw materials to a lot of industries, yet there is no clear cut strategy to increase maize production like rice.” Mogaji said.
The shift by traditional maize farmers in the country is largely due to Federal Government incentives to grow rice and boost local production.
Experts say that the development could hit producers of feeds, flour, noodles, biscuits, brewers, starch, confectioners, among others, who use maize as raw material at factories.
Maize is the leading cereal grown in Nigeria, closely followed by sorghum and rice, but all that is fast changing owing to the country’s rice revolution.
“A lot of farmers in the north are shifting to rice production because of the incentives to grow it, such as the CBN’s anchor borrowers program,” said an agro commodity expert who does not want his name mentioned on print.
“This is partly the reason import is rising fast. Also, the CBN released forex to some large players in the food and beverage industry to import maize into the country. This is another reason why imports are fast rising.
“What the CBN did is a disincentive for farmers to grow maize any longer and that is why they are shifting to other crops, especially rice. The price of a ton of paddy rice is N125, 000 while a ton of maize is N85, 000,” he said.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics show that the country’s maize import increased by 90 percent in the third quarter in 2017 to N14 billion from N7.3 billion in the second quarter.
Despite being Africa’s second largest maize producer after South Africa, churning out about 10.5 million MT per annum, with a demand of 15 million MT and gap of 4.5 million MT, Nigeria had struggled to boost its maize production due to armyworm outbreak and pressure from neighbouring West African countries in the last two years.
“The situation in the South-West is that a lot of maize farmers are scared of the armyworm which destroyed farms last year and in 2016 and most of them are trying to reduce their risks by growing more cassava now and shifting away from maize,” said Abiodun Olorundenro, chief executive officer, Green Vine Farms Limited.
“This will impact our maize production and pricing,” Olorundenro said.
According to farmers and experts, Nigeria can avert the problem by putting measures in place that will ramp up production and by encouraging farmers to grow maize by replicating the CBN’s anchor borrow program of rice for the crop.
Tunji Ademola, former national president, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) stated that the rise in the importation of maize is a disincentive for farmers to grow more.
“Because of high maize imports farmers are not sure of the market and because of this they are discouraged to plant more,” said Ademola.
The experts also urged the government to provide adequate surveillance and necessary pesticides to avoid the re-occurrence of armyworm infestation in the country.

 
JOSEPHINE OKOJIE & BUNMI BAILEY