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Tackling maize shortage

Insecurity, border closures and restrictions following the COVID-9 pandemic contributed to the challenges maize farmers are facing to get seeds as the planting season kicks in across the country. The situation has raised fears that productivity will decline and threaten food security, as seed shortages are predicted for most staple crops.

Several parts of Africa are facing challenges of producing quality seeds for farmers as a result of the pandemic. Analysts have noted that unless a swift action is taken to facilitate producers’ access to seeds, the disruptions caused by the pandemic would lead to a decrease in agricultural production.

Last month, the Central Bank (CBN), through its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), released about 300,000 metric tonnes of maize into the market, to help reduce the prices of the product.

Earlier, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) facilitated waivers for four agro-processing firms to import 262,000 tonnes of maize to bridge the shortfall in production. The National President, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) Bello Abubakar, blamed insecurity in the major maize producing belt of Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and some parts of Kano for the insufficiency of the product in the market. He explained that the planned dry season farming which is first of its kind in the country, timely distribution of inputs to farmers and improved security would significantly enhance production and ensure stability in price.

As part of the bank’s financing framework, the CBN has facilitated the funding of maize farmers and processors through the ABP Commodity Association, Private/Prime Anchors, state governments, Maize Aggregation Scheme (MAS), and the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS).

Confirming the release of credit to its members by the apex bank, Abubakar said over 200,000 farmers were planning to produce more than 25 million metric tonnes of maize in the 2020/2021 planting season.

According to him, the credit is disbursed to members along the maize value chain, located in different states of the country.

On the CBN’s gesture, the National President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama, noted that though the measure was short-term, it would go a long way to ameloriate the situation.

Iyama said since maize was one of the nation’s major grains and efforts should be focused on boosting production through continued support of famers with higher-quality seed at subsidised prices to farmers. Also, that the government should encourage farmers to increase maize cultivated areas across the states.

An Executive Director, Animal Care and the Public Relations Officer, Ogun State Chapter, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Dr. Opeyemi Agbato, said the allocation and release of maize to key feed millers under the CBN’s Strategic Maize Reserve programme was a much-needed intervention.

His words: “For it, we sincerely applaud their initiative. They made true to their words and pronouncements of release. It was unfortunate that the release coincided with a time when the prices of soy beans seeds (whose by-product a critical source of protein in poultry feed) experienced an astronomical increase mostly due to rapid exportation. Even though there is a dire need for foreign exchange in the country, Soy is insufficient for local use, current exportation is at the detriment of local livestock farmers, particularly poultry farmers. We hope that in the future, more strategic holding and release facilities for maize would be made available in all regions for ease of accessibility and reduction in the cost of transportation.”

With skyrocketing prices of some essential foods, he hoped that the price of subsequent maize release would be further reduced to as low as N135-145,000/ metric tonne (MT) or about 35 per cent lower than prevailing prices to the consumers to force the drop in prices of maize and cost of producing animal feed and food.

The Chief Executive, AFEX, Ayodeji Balogun, said his organisation was providing a roadmap to high-yield growth opportunities in the aggregation, storage, and marketing of maize in Nigeria.

AFEX provides storage warehouses with a warehouse receipt system to enable the market viability of the crops and a fair price share for farmers.

Since Maize remains an indispensable staple role in the food processing and feeds industry, Balogun said the organisation was happy to be associated with the release to aid increased maize production and productivity.

“By facilitating the release of the 300,000MT Maize, leveraging support from credible players in the ecosystem including our team at AFEX, the CBN will offer over 35,000 farmers and agro-processors a channel through which they can trade maize at a subsidised rate, and thereby reduce the adverse effect of the maize price hike, increase local demand, and improve farmers’ livelihoods.

“With maize being a core food basket, the allocation of the commodity to smallholder farmers, prime anchors such as Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Flour Mills, Livestock and Feeds processors, will create a sustainable availability and pricing structure in the market, reducing maize prices and bridging the supply gap and scarcity in the national and local market regions,” he added.

Courtsey: The Nation