According to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), maize production in Nigeria is deficient with about 4 million metric tonnes yearly. With your experience in farming and grain business, how can maize production be scaled up in Nigeria?
We must give kudos to IITA and other organisations for the collaborative efforts with farmers to ensure that they embrace good agricultural practices and due processes. Before the beginning of the planting season, there were jingles to inform farmers that there would be a lot of rain this year and they should ensure that do not cultivate early so that they do not record losses.
Although most of the farmers made losses because they planted too early and due to too much rainfall, a lot of them who took precautionary measures made quality yields. So, there are a lot to be done by the government, research institutes, private firms and international bodies to educate farmers on best farming practices and how to curb shortfall of maize due to pre and post-harvest losses.
In educating the farmers, will there be a need to revamp the extension services?
A lot has been said about this, but practically, nothing has been done. Most of the extension units have failed to provide training for farmers. Also, we do not know if funds have been provided to organise seminars to educate farmers or not. There is a gap and even if the private enterprises and NGOs are doing so much to help train farmers on the right procedures to adopt, the intervention of the government and the international bodies will most likely stir improvement and hasten the extension services.
Are farmers complying with standard procedures of grain deying following the education on how to eliminate contaminants?
With my 13 years of experience, I have worked with a lot of bodies but we must applaud Cultivating New Frontier in Agriculture (CNFA) for its efforts in organising seminars, symposia for farmers at the grassroots and in ensuring a follow-up throughout the planting seasons. Owing to this, there has been major improvement in the yields of the farmers we have worked with. There have been quality products, and there has been a reduction in contamination levels.
Do you think the extended closure of some land borders would improve agriculture in Nigeria?
In my opinion, it is for the eventual benefits of the Nigerian farmers. But I will urge the Federal Government to take precautionary measures and look at the nomenclatures before they act. Although the policy is for the betterment of farmers, it is imperative for the government to pre-inform Nigerians so that they can adjust to the changes.
In the long run, do you see Nigeria benefitting economically from this policy?
Certainly, Nigeria will benefit from the closure of the borders. One of the reasons is that grains come in to the country through vessels and they pay so much tax in the neighbouring countries and this makes the importers to smuggle these goods into Nigeria and the Nigerian government makes no gain from this. At the same time, there is a shortfall and there is the need for the improvement of our ports by the Custom Services and the Nigerian government to entice importers and to dissuade smuggling.
Do you think that importation will be done legitimately after the removal of FOREX for about 43 products by the Federal Government?
We need to empower our smallholder farmers. The FOREX can go into other sectors like machineries. If the government can empower the farmers, there will be an increase in yield and consumption of locally produced crops. And, of course, we are capable. There is farmland and we have human resources. Definitely, we will be able to feed ourselves.