LAGOS – When the Federal Government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), directed all authorised dealers in forex to immediately stop processing Form ‘M’ for maize importation, it came as a cheering news for some, while some are of the opinion that the timing is wrong.
DAILY INDEPENDENT sought the opinions of farmers, stakeholders and experts in the sector to see how the policy will drive maize production to meet industry and food security needs in the country.
Also, the search includes seeing if the policy could stimulate large-scale investment in maize production in the form of backward integration by conglomerates utilising maize in the country.
Nigeria with its annual production of about 12 million metric tonnes is the 11th largest maize producers in the world, and maize is being cultivated in large volumes in the northern region, particularly in Kaduna, Borno, Niger and Taraba and in the south western states, including in Ogun, Ondo and Oyo.
According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nigeria imported 650,000 metric tonnes of maize in 2016, while 400,000 metric tonnes were imported in 2018 and the same was recorded in 2019.
Stakeholders at different media parleys with the DAILY INDEPENDENT are of the opinion that in the final analysis, the policy could be a wand to really make the country shoot up its production from about 12 million metric tonnes to about 20 million tonnes and more to meet the rising demand.
Prince Mohammed Kolawole-Salau, Business Development Consultant for HO Corns, said as it stands, there would be more demand from consumers and it would stimulate internal procedures to ensure that farmers in the country cultivate more maize.
“With this, the prices of maize will go up because if you are buying a bag of maize for like N15,000 now because of the import ban, there will be excess demand from customers and the little supply the country can make will not be enough to serve the market.
“It might rise to like N20,000 and that is more profit for the farmers and this will spur the farmers to want to plant more and spur entrepreneurs who are not looking towards that direction of farming to go into that because they know there is a market for maize now,” he said.
Kolawole-Salau said Nigeria is a leader in Africa in terms of corn production and if what the country is producing now is not enough to meet the needs locally and there is a ban, it would also affect supplies to the region.
Speaking further, he said Nigerian farmers are up to the task of meeting local demand, but would still need more assistance from the government, especially the resource-poor farmers who lack capacity in terms of infrastructure.
“Farmers still need support from the government. This is the time for entrepreneurs to come into maize farming. If there is a lack of corn in the market that should tell you there is deficiency in supply.
“The youths in the country should rise up to the occasion to produce more corn so that the price of corn will crash because of corn sufficiency in the country,” he added.
Also Dr. Femi Oke, Lagos State Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), commended the CBN for the directive, stating that it was a good development as it would enhance maize farmers to increase their output to meet the demand created by the ban.
“With this development, there will be more demand and more concentration on local farmers and the farmers will increase their production so as to meet the demands.
He also called on the government to give more support to the farmers so as to assist them to meet up with the increasing demands which will be created as a result of the ban.
Oke said CBN schemes such as Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) loan and others would help farmers, adding that there would be more output to serve the consumers.
“There would be a lot of demands now; hence these schemes will help farmers to source for low interest loans to expand their businesses.
“We will increase our production by concentrating more on maize plantation; hence we are sure of getting support from the government to increase our outputs.
“The ban is very good, it is a welcome development that will promote local production as well as become self-sufficient in maize production,” he added.
Oke also said that most seed companies were doing well currently due to funding from the Federal Government, saying that seedlings and varieties would not be a challenge in maize production.
He added that the ban would also facilitate more concentration to develop new seedlings that would increase yields that would generate more profits to local farmers.
Abubakar Bello, National President of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), commended the directive, adding that it would boost the country’s effort towards achieving self-sufficiency in maize production.
He said that there was no need for any end user to seek for maize importation as members of the association cultivating more farmland in the dry season to increase the availability of maize grains.
“There is no need for any end users to seek maize importation. We are moving more into large dry season farming, where we are sure that it will increase the availability of maize grains for all end users,” he said.
Bello said the CBN had released N16 billion for this year’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP). While calling on the government to assist them in assessing machineries, he said CBN should provide soft and quick loan facility to interested entrepreneurs to establish maize industries across the country.
“With all these great steps being taken by the government, the country can be self-sufficient in maize production if we all believe in the capacity of our farmers and put our hands on the plough. We have done it before and we can achieve it again as it was done in 2005,” he said.
He, however, appealed to states with comparative advantage in maize production to partner MAAN by providing large area of arable land for cultivation by members of the association.
However, Ikechukwu Kelikume, Programme Director, Lagos Business School, Agribusiness Programme, warned that the directive might spell dooms for poultry farmers across the country.
He said that poultry farmers are already cutting down on production because of the high cost of feeds and imported medication for the birds, stressing that the directive is ill-timed with huge negative consequences for Nigeria’s poultry sector.
The policy could further compound the woes of poultry farmers given that maize, which constitutes a larger percentage of poultry feed content, he added, is currently very scarce, and where available, is very expensive, even as the price keeps rising.
Although, he admitted that the CBN’s earlier policies of Agric, Small and Medium enterprise scheme and the Anchor Borrowers Programme have been largely successful, he opined that the current decision to discontinue the processing of Form M for the importation of maize could reverse the gains of those interventions.
“The situation may spell doom for poultry farmers who across the country are beginning to cut down on production because of the high cost of feed and imported medication for the birds.
“As it stands, there is no alternative for the poultry farmers, as the poultry sector will face a catastrophic shortage of feeds, a critical input in their business. This situation will render tens of thousands of them unemployed and undo all the gains made by this sector in the past five years. Thousands of poultry businesses will shut down in the face of high operating costs, leaving business owners and their employees without a means of livelihood,” he added.
He said the apex bank’s decision to ban maize importation was too abrupt, urging it to reverse the decision.
In the same vein, Alfred Mrakpor, Delta State Chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), called on the government to permit the importation of maize into Nigeria as a result of the shortage of the product to meet the farmers’ needs.
He said the continuous scarcity and rise in the price of maize in the country posed a major threat to the poultry business and food security in the country.
“As a result of the scarcity of maize and continued rise in the price, several poultry farms had already shut down and this is a serious threat to the country’s food security.
Meanwhile, the CBN gave four reasons for its action. These include: increasing local production, stimulating a rapid economic recovery, safeguarding rural livelihoods and increasing jobs.