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Nigeria’s maize production at highest level since independence

Maize production in Nigeria rose to the highest level since the nation’s independence in 1960, a significant improvement for a country that has struggled for decades with below-par domestic production of food.

The production of maize increased by 16 per cent in 2021 over the previous year, according to the United State Department of Agriculture.

The rise came a year after the Central Bank of Nigeria halted government-supplied foreign exchange for the importation of maize, in a bid to cut imports and boost domestic production. The government did not stop importers from sourcing dollars from the black market.

The figure is also coming at a time of growing concerns of global food scarcity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the chairman of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said Nigerians should be prepared for an impending food crisis within the next two to three months and urged the government to immediately stop the ongoing export of maize. The government has previously lifted its ban on maize exports.

A Maize farm [Photo: HapaKenya]

Mr Dangote, who said the effects of the Ukraine crisis are already being felt in the food processing chain, said prices of fertiliser, wheat, maize, among other products, will go up.

“There will be a shortage of wheat, maize and a lot of products because as we speak, Russia and Ukraine do almost 30 per cent of the world’s urea and 26 per cent of the world’s potash; and even phosphate also, they are one of the largest (producers) in the world,” he said.

“There would be a scarcity of food generally, we would not be able to access fertilizers going forward, we would not see the effects now, but in the next two, three months. Even the US will not be able to do the same number of tonnage they did last year because of this.

“Right now, you start seeing people exporting maize to earn foreign exchange, which I think we need to stop, so that we don’t create shortage; and we need to make sure we grow more so we don’t have a shortage. It is about food security, and it is very, very serious.”

New Figures

Data published by the USDA shows that Nigeria produced 11.6 million metric tons of maize in 2021, the highest quantity made in the last six decades. The figure when compared to the 10 million metric tonnes recorded in 2020 shows a 16 per cent increase.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization is yet to release its official figures on Nigeria’s production in 2020 and 2021.

Maize, one of the most popular food crops in Nigeria, is widely consumed by millions of Nigerians and is also used for the production of animal feeds.

However, local production has for years lagged consumption, a situation that has fueled importation with implications for Nigeria’s currency and job creation.

In 2019, Nigeria was Africa’s second largest maize producer after South Africa and the 14th largest producer globally. Yet, its local maize demand continues to surpass supply thus creating an annual demand gap of about 4 million metric tonnes annually. According to USDA, maize import into Nigeria doubled from 500,000 metric tonnes to 1 million metric tonnes between October 2019 and October 2020.

In 2020, due to the increased quantity of maize imported to the country, the CBN banned the issuance of forex for the importation of the cereal. The bank has also financed efforts to boost maize farming.

However, although local maize production is still far off demand, the decision appears to be yielding fruit as importation of maize in the country declined to 200,000 metric tons in 2021 compared to 300,000 metric tons recorded in 2020.

The national chairman, Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), Uche Edwin, said he expected a rise in the output in 2021 after the difficulties of 2020 due to the coronavirus.

“We are not surprised by the 16% increase in output in 2021, we expected more,” Mr Edwin said.

“We are all aware that in 2020, we experienced a lot of challenges that affect agriculture. For instance, issues of Covid-19 whereby movement of hydro chemicals and other materials necessary for agriculture were disturbed, insecurity, climate change, and among others,”.

He said in 2021, the CBN invested more in its anchor borrowers programme and that also ensured money got to small holder farmers to grow maize which in turn improved their yields and output.

Mr Edwin said the CBN’s decision to place a ban on the importation of maize also played a major role in the 2021 higher productivity.

“The CBN’s policy to ban importation of maize also helps local production. That alone boosts the morale of farmers, knowing that the government really depends on them for adequate maize production in the country,” Mr Edwin said.

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