Maize farmers and processors under the auspices of Maize Association of Nigeria, MAAN, Maize Growers, Farmers and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAGFAMAN, on Tuesday, condemned calls for maize importation into the country.
This was stated at a press conference by the National Presidents of the two associations, Dr Bello Abubakar, and Dr Edwin Uche, respectively.
Abubakar in his address pointed that the call was made by Poultry Association of Nigeria, PAN, seeking authorized dealers and the general public to import maize grain from the official foreign exchange market.
According to him the call and agitation were sheer calculated attempts to further hinder maize production in Nigeria.
He further explained that the current high price of maize grains in the country is ephemeral as it was occasioned by the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic that struck and disrupted supply chains and increased the cost of inputs for many farming activities.
He also added that the increase in the price of the commodity was traceable to hoarding by some individuals, which resulted in artificial scarcity, and the effect currently bites hard on commercial and local consumers.
He said: “The agitation by some associations including the Poultry Association of Nigeria seeking Authorized Dealers and the General Public to import maize grain from the official foreign exchange market is seen as a calculated attempt to further hinder maize production in Nigeria.
“The current high price of maize grains in the country is ephemeral. It is occasioned by the COVID 19 Pandemic that disrupted supply chains and increased the cost of inputs for many farming activities.
“In addition, hoarding of maize grains by some commodity agents also resulted in artificial scarcity and attendant price hikes. This has an effect on commercial consumers that use maize as a key input in their production processes e.g. poultry farmers and consumer goods manufacturers. It is worthy of note that the COVID 19 Pandemic disrupted supply chains and increased the cost of inputs for many farming communities globally.
“According to the FAO, as many as ‘132 million people could face starvation as a result of economic recession triggered by the pandemic’.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as part of her developmental functions, has been striving hard to increase national production volumes of maize. The CBN policy of agriculture, small and medium enterprise scheme, and the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) have been very successful in opening up the agricultural sector in the country.
“Both policies have worked effectively in closing the productivity gap in the crop farming subsector. This effort should be appreciated and sustained.’
He also pointed that the Federal Government through the CBN had graciously approved the release of 300,000MT of maize grains from the Strategic Grains Reserve (SGR) to ameliorate the adverse effect of maize grain price hike and scarcity in the country and that any move to import the commodity will be a disincentive to the maize industry.
“Consequently, it is needless, counterproductive, and unattainable to lift the ban on maize grains importation.
“Importation of maize grains into the country at this crucial period will serve as a disincentive to maize production, maize farmers and food chain system in the country”, he said.
He also said if the government will not give the go-ahead to import maize as some persons are agitating for, “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 job opportunities and safeguard rural livelihoods.”
However, he (Abubakar) disclosed that Poultry Farmers Association, PAN, have a Memoranda of Understanding, MoU, with his association, which they off-take maize from his members.
“We are working together with the poultry farmers association of Nigeria. Many poultry farmers are taking their maize from our association, and we have a Memoranda of Understanding with them under the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
“I have said it several times that it is not an issue that there is no maize in Nigeria, there is maize but they are complaining about the price which cannot be there forever; it is something that would not be more than one or two months.
“Before the end of the dry season the price will come down and when they exhausted it the one of the wet seasons will come on and the price will come and if they exercise patience they will get it.”
While answering questions, the National President, Maize Growers, Farmers, and Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAGFAMAN, Dr Edwin Uche, assured Nigerians that with the capacity of farmers demand by commercial and local consumers will be met with 25 million metric tonnes of maize before the end of 2021.
“A lot has happened been last year when we had issues of COVID-19 and this year, and we are all Nigerians and globally we know the effect of COVID-19 on food production and global economy.
“Within the last three years there has been triple production of maize and we have had a production of maize via the Anchor Borrowers Scheme; the CBN has invested so much in the Anchor Borrower, and we have moved from 8 million metric tonnes to 12 million metric tonnes to 15 million metric tonnes to and today we have moved to 20 million metric tonnes of maize production in the past three years and it is an offshoot of the federal government ensuring that agriculture is the bane of Nigeria’s economy, employer of labour and opportunity creator in our economy.
“Today we are harvesting, aggregating and the level at which we have gotten to and with the projection of the two association we are going to be hopeful with the dry seasons and global management of COVID-19 we should be able to achieve at least 25 million tonnes before the end of 2021.
“We have carried out massive farmer mobilisation, education, sentisation and we are also getting a lot of support from the CBN, Ministry of Agriculture, and partners to ensure we achieve this objective.
“The associations have the capacity to grow maize for both industrial use and local consumption. We are going beyond two seasons of farming and we are looking at a situation we grow maize all year round.
“We have strategically developed capacity for maize production in Nigeria to bridge the gap in the maize value chain, existing in the maize production circle.
“Today we would not be discussing this if not for the challenge we encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, if not for the advent of COVID-19 that affected food chain, production but that affected agriculture globally we will not be talking about the price increase in maize per bag, or increase in feed, flour and all the derivatives from maize”, he assured.
However, cautioned that “Any step you take in importing maize will adversely affect the livelihood of these people whose school fee of their children, survival, health and education survival depends solely on them and when you take this away from them you are pushing them into poverty, crime and nowhere and that will amount to a very catastrophic situation in the country.
“The assurance we are giving as an association is that a little or no time the price of maize will drop. In little or no time in the next three or four months drastically and we are working on it.
“We are also doing our best to block individuals who are making maize availability difficult for our people. We have maize stored by those who are driving maize merchants in our system.
“And we are developing the strategic framework, implementation strategies to be able to block these people from buying from our smallholder farmers and hoarding them to cause unnecessary scarcity.”