In the bid to boost maize production in Nigeria by smallholder farmers, the Business Innovation Facility (BIF), an initiative of the Department for International Development (DFID), has identified key constraints bedevilling its production in Nigeria.
It also listed measures that could be taken by the relevant authorities to turn maize production into a top revenue earner for the Nigerian market.
The BIF initiative was established in 2014 with the aim to improve the standard of living of the poor in three countries, Malawi, Myanmar and Nigeria.
Maize, also known as corn, is an annual cereal plant widely cultivated by smallholder farmers in Nigeria.
It has multiple uses ranging from cooking, roasting, frying and crushing to prepare local food varieties eaten in different parts of the country. Hence, it is basically cultivated for both sustenance and income.
It is a subsistence crop with significant socio-economic value because of its diverse uses.
In the document published by BIF, the facility established that maize is majorly cultivated by poor smallholder farmers in Nigeria.
It noted that approximately 3.6 million farmers currently cultivate the crop to boost their sustenance and income.
The document tagged Market Analysis and Strategy for Maize was shared with participants during a one-day Agricultural Summit held in Abuja on August 6.
The document established that an increase in demand for maize by different industries within the country is currently creating opportunities for maize farmers to boost income and production.
The identified constraints by BIF in the maize value chain include poor post-harvest handling practices which result in significant losses and the inability of farmers to access the growing industrial demand for maize.
Additionally, the poor application of agronomical practices, which affects productivity and farmers’ usage of limited amounts of key productivity-enhancing inputs, such as fertilisers, also act as a hindering factor against smallholder farmers, the document noted.
In the document, BIF said the primary reason for analysing the maize market ”is to bring sustainable change in the market structure in order to allow smallholder farmers benefit”.
“BIF Nigeria’s vision for the maize market is enhancing smallholder farmers’ income through higher productivity such that they benefit from the increasing utilization of maize in different industries,” the document read.
The document goes on to specify key intervention measures to aid smallholder farmers.
These measures include improving access to viable and sustainable storage options through warehouse receipt systems, multiplication of improved varieties required by industrial processors and improved linkages between smallholder farmers and processors through cascading contract(s) and farming with embedded information services.
Interestingly, 2017 data from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN estimates that 6,540,000 hectares of maize were harvested and it yielded 10,420,000 tons.
However, data sets for total maize production in Nigeria from 2013 – 2017 have indicated significant fluctuations.
It revealed that the total maize production in Nigeria in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 was 8,422,670 tons, 10,058,968 tons, 10,562,050 tons and 11,547,980 tons, respectively.
From these figures, it is safe to deduce that Nigeria recorded an approximate total of 51,011,668 tons of maize in five years.
BIF maize value chain analysis clearly indicates that the demand for maize far outstrips supply which they said is being driven by the increasing utilisation especially in developing new products by industries.
Also, they posited that researches have shown that 90 per cent of the total maize farmers in Nigeria are smallholder farmers producing well below what they are capable of.
Meanwhile, Aneke Cletus, the Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of Green Gold Intercontinental Synergy Concept Limited, who is an expert in maize cultivation, outlined some challenges these farmers face.
”Farmers just cultivate plots of land without carrying out soil test to know the nutrient capacity of the soil, which will enable farmers’ to know the specific types of fertiliser to apply,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
Also, he said, smallholder farmers do not plant good varieties that meet the demand of ‘off-takers’, which he said could be attributed to lack of finance.
“Because of the lack of finance for them, they cannot go for the best varieties. Those best varieties are not actually cheap, so the only way the government or any other public body can come in is to see how to subsidise these good varieties so that it would be accessible to the farmers. They want to cultivate those good varieties but if they don’t have the money to buy it, they will not do it,” he said.
He also advocated for increased mechanised farming to boost production.
”We did this within a system whereby they had about 19.5 hectares of land planted manually, then they had about 21 hectares planted with tractors, and that they both sprouted together. Only that the 21 hectares are doing more than the 19.5 hectares,” he explained.
Mr Cletus also said, ”all things being equal, planting varieties of maize seeds like ‘Seedco white SC719’ can yield about eight tons per hectare.”