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As farmers seek import ban, Nigeria buys same quantity of maize abroad

Nigeria imported its second-largest volume of maize in a decade in 2019, maintaining the same level it recorded the previous year, despite calls by farmers for a restriction on the importation of the cereal, data analysed by PREMIUM TIMES show.

Data obtained from the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that Nigeria imported 400,000 tons of maize in 2019 as it did in 2018.

That figure, recorded separately in both years, is the second-highest maize import volume for the country since 2009.

The highest was recorded in 2016 when 650,000 tons of maize was imported by the country.

Since its introduction to Africa in the 1500s, maize has become one of Africa’s dominant food crops.

Nigeria is Africa’s top producer of maize, followed by Tanzania, according to the International Insitute for Tropical Agriculture. But the country is also a leading importer as demand for animal feed grows in the country.

Nigeria’s annual need for maize is estimated at 15 million metric tons while the country’s local production is 10.5million tons.

Data to show maize importation in Nigeria in the last 10 years

For years, maize farmers have complained that they have the capacity to meet the country’s annual demand of maize both for human consumption and animal feeds.

The farmers have accused the government of refusing to ban maize importation as it has done with rice.

Edwin Uche, is the national chairman of Maize Growers and Processors Association of Nigeria (MAGPAN), told PREMIUM TIMES that maize farmers in Nigeria can produce enough maize needed in the country if the government supports them with more incentives.

“We are capable of producing the needed quantity of maize in the country if the government can place a ban on maize importation and provide us with the necessary incentives such as financial aids, loans, fertilizer among others,” Uche said.

In 2019, Nigeria was the third largest maize importer in Africa, behind Zimbabwe and Kenya which imported 1 million tones and 900,000 tons respectively.

According to Abraham Godson, a former research supervisor at IITA, Ibadan, continuous importation of agricultural commodities like maize can weaken the country’s economy.

“It is sad that we still import many of the agricultural produce that we produce locally. This leads to the continued depreciation of the naira and in turn weakening of the economy and our international purchasing power. More efforts should be made at changing our economy and especially the agricultural sector from a consumption-oriented to export-oriented,” Mr Godson said.

“A new strategic policy is urgently needed to reverse this trend. It should be geared towards modernizing agriculture through supply of agricultural machinery to farmers, improved seeds, agrochemicals to farmers, and a nationwide capacity building and training for those involved in agriculture,” he added.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on June 23 during the flag-off of 2020 wet season maize farming in Delta State expressed its readiness to support about 200,000 maize farmers across the country to boost maize production in Nigeria.

The plan, according to CBN, is to support maize farmers with 166,000 farming inputs that will lead to the production of a minimum of 4 tons of maize in a hectare of land.

CBN said it would do more next season if farmers deliver.

“Like the anchor borrowers programme that was set up to support farmers, we are excited about it and we are doing well with the support of the scheme. If more of such can be created for farmers, our production level will increase and it will create employment in the sector as well as boosting food sufficiency,” Mr Uche of MAGBAN said.