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Harvest Spotlight: Maize

Maize is a valuable commodity that is geographically dispersed across Nigeria and suitable for most Nigerians. It is perhaps the most common staple food in developing countries, providing food for 900 million people earning less than US $2 per day.


The world-wide consumption of maize is more than 116 million tons, a testament to the fact that there is a high consumption of maize globally. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 50% of the population consumes maize while the entire African continent accounts for 30% of global Maize consumption.

One would imagine that a continent that has a heavy maize consumption rate will be a major maize producer but on the contrary, Africa accounts for only 6.5% of the Global Maize production with Nigeria being the largest African Maize producer, her production is slightly over 10 million tons of Maize, followed by South Africa. However it is considerably small when compared to the USA’s corn production (384 million metric tons).

If Africa produces very little and consumes so much, then it confirms to us that there is a heavy reliance on importation to bridge the production deficit which is why Africa’s total consumption of maize accounts for 28% of the global maize imports.

Maize production trend for selected countries (tonnes)/

It is projected that by 2050, the demand for maize in the developing world is expected to double. This in itself is a good sign for anyone in the Maize value chain especially the local and cross-border trader, as it presents an opportunity to increase their earning exponentially.

Farming & Production

Maize is the most productive grain crops in the middle and northern belts of Nigeria where sunshine is adequate and rainfall is moderate. In these areas, storage of grains can be accomplished without much damage from the insect pest.

Maize grows in a wider range of soil type than rice, almost every part of Nigeria can grow maize on their soil. Some farmers use Hybrid Maize seeds and mechanized system of farming which gives them better yield of up to 10.2 tonnes per hectare, while crude farming methods which most African farmers are used to gives low yield of up to 2.1 tonnes per hectare.

As most of Maize in Nigeria is rain-fed, early maize is sown in the North by May/June and March/April in the South for Early maturing Seed variety while Late Maturing Maize variety is sown by July/August. Due to erratic rainfall caused by climate change, farmers are usually encouraged to plant at the onset of rain.

Maize matures very fast, within 3–4 months of planting, the crop is ready for harvest, depending on which stage you want to harvest your crop but then harvesting of early maize is done by May and late Maize is harvested by October.

A late Maize farm by an African student studying Agriculture

In Nigeria, Maize farming does not require a handful of training and capital. Once a suitable land, irrigation channel, maize seed and storage barn are available, maize production can begin. If you are like me, you would be concerned about why there is still a production deficit of 5 million metric tonnes of Maize. I discovered that armyworm invasion on most Maize farms is a major reason for the drop in local production and to bridge the deficit, the government relies heavily on importation of the grain.


Typical African Dish (Semo) produced from maize taken with Soup

As one of Africa’s dominant food crop, Maize can be consumed in varied forms such as maize flour for confectionaries, semo (for swallow with soup), as corn beef, feed mill (for animals feeding), as roasted corn, boiled or prepared as porridge. In all parts of Africa, green (fresh) maize is boiled or roasted on its cob and served as a snack.

Like many other regions, it is consumed as a vegetable although it is a grain crop rich in vitamins A, C and E, carbohydrates, essential minerals, and contain 9% protein. They are also rich in dietary D and calories which are a good source of energy.

Also, more than 60% of Nigeria’s maize production is consumed by the industrial sector for the production of beer, malt drinks, maize flakes, starch, syrup, dextrose and animal feeds because there is so much value in the industrial processing of maize, especially into animal feed.

Farmers are currently unable to access the industrial market due to high levels of intermediation hence they depend on strong trader cartels to access markets, however, building the capacity of farmers to link directly to top of Supply Chain players would enable them to bypass intermediaries and realize a better price. platform empowers farmers, aggregators and SMEs to sell in a more direct way and to obtain finance based on warehouse receipts and contracts.

Matured Maize cob ready for harvest

Harvest Update

To end this piece, it is important to be reminded that late maize is currently being harvested in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa. From our field survey, harvest has been fairly okay in some states although flooding in many states like Kogi, Niger, Anambra and Delta, Taraba Adamawa, Kebbi, Edo, Rivers, Benue, Bayelsa and Kwara states led to reduction in rice yield/ha.

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