A shortfall in the supply of maize in the country has led to the price of a tonne of maize shooting from N80, 000 in January 2020 to over N200, 000. Poultry farmers face a looming crisis as maize is a major ingredient for poultry feeds. Daily Trust takes a close look
For several months now, Ibrahim Abdullahi, a maize farmer in Lere, Kaduna State, has not been able to cultivate his farm. He is afraid. Being on his farm means being vulnerable to attacks by bandits or being kidnapped for ransom.
This fear, he acknowledges, has spread like a pestilence amongst farming communities.
“I am not alone,” Abdullahi said, “Insecurity has made many farmers in the North avoid their farms.”
This fear, coupled with other challenges such as poor yields, crop diseases and floods have resulted in a looming food crisis.
Maize, which constitutes the staple meal for a significant number of Nigerians and the most critical ingredient in the production of animal and aqua feed, is gradually becoming a scarce commodity, driving up the prices astronomically.
A tonne is currently sold at N200,000 as against N80,000 as at January 2020. Other crops have gone up too.
The price for soybeans has increased from N105,000 in January 2020 and is now N260,000.
Because both maize and soybeans are vital components of poultry feeds, it spells trouble for poultry farmers as well.
A poultry farmer in Abuja, Abdul Musa, said as a result of the high cost of maize and Soyabeans, a bag of feed, which was formally N2700 is now sold for N5500.
“The high cost of the feed has made the business unprofitable and many poultry farmers are leaving the business, “Musa said.
In Plateau State, the problems are similar, as the Marketing & Sales Director, Da-Ogboe Farms Nigeria Ltd, Jos, LillianOgbogu, said: “Farmers are shutting down poultry and other livestock production due to the high cost of commercial feeds.
“Again, replacement chicks are on low demand. Very few farmers are willing to order chicks to replace spent birds.
“Also, indigenous hatcheries are forced to scale down the production of day-old chicks because of low demand.
“Animal protein is expensive in the market. Two months ago, a kilo of chicken was N850, today it’s N1200; beef was N1300/kg, it’s now N1500; a crate of eggs was N1100, today it’s N1200-1300.
“Many households will be unable to afford balanced diets if the price hikes continue.”
According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria is the largest African producer of maize with over 33 million tonnes, followed by South Africa, Egypt and Ethiopia.
About 4.5 million tonnes of maize (per annum) is required to sustain the poultry industry alone.
The Managing Director Anadariya Industries Limited and a poultry farmer, Usman Dantata Jr said solving the looming scarcity of maize and soybeans will require an urgent waiver to import about 1.5million to 2million tonnes of Maize via the Poultry Association of Nigeria in order to cushion the current high cost of maize and as its unavailability will put millions out of work and close thousands of businesses.
Another poultry farmer in Jos, Blessing Isioma Alawode, said massive investment in maize and soybeans cultivation are solutions to current challenges.
“While importation will be an immediate solution which will ensure stability in pricing, massive investment into maize cultivation can be a medium and long term solution that will ensure we are not import-dependent or at least, reduce our need for importation,” she said.
She continues, “It is also worthy of note to mention that the primary action to take in this regards is to ensure that farmers (grain farmers) are safe in their farms.
“Currently, the farms are not safe because of insecurity. The herdsmen crisis and sometimes kidnapping, and in severe cases, the killing of innocent citizens in their farmlands, will not encourage anyone to embrace investment in this area, even if it is at 0 interest rate,” she said.
The Director-General Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Onallo S. Akpa, said the poultry industry is facing a serious challenge of near absence and/or high costs of maize and soybeans in the country stressing that they will lose N5 trillion investments and 10 million jobs if the industry goes down.
The DG said part of the problem is that grain aggregators who are currently responsible for the “mopping up of maize and soybean along with other commodities in warehouses are hoarding such to create a scarcity that triggers abnormal high prices.”
Dr Akpa said part of the immediate solution is for the Federal Government to intervene to stop the export of soybeans – both seeds and soybean meals (SBM) and maize to any part of the world.
He also appealed to the federal government to allow the importation of 1.5 million metric tonnes of maize and 750,000 metric tons of soybeans from January to October to address the immediate challenges.
The poultry farmers want the government to invest more in maize production, particularly in dry season production because the wet seasons can be affected by flooding, which farmers cannot control as witnessed last year in most parts of the North.
Apart from efforts to bridge the shortfall created by flood and insecurity, the president of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Dr Abubakar Funtua Bello, said they are kick-starting massive dry season commercial maize production for the first time in the country, targeting 200,000 farmers under the CBN Anchor-Borrower Programme.
A farmer, Monday Daspan, suggests another way to stem the shortfall of maize going forward.
“Maize requires the best mix of factors to get the maximum yield. With the effects of the pandemic, early interventions by way of subsidised inputs and timely field support services would have impacted on the yields.
“The government remains the greatest motivator by policy and deliberate intervention which were far from public expectations,” Daspen said.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono says the country must create a ‘safety net’ for rice and maize to achieve self-sufficiency in them.
The minister who spoke recently during a retreat on “Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture” for heads of agencies and research institutes under the ministry in Abuja is worried that issues around rice and maize are now becoming so sensitive.
Alhaji Nanono said the two grains have become “political crops” adding that Nigerians are becoming so sensitive to their prices, which attracts huge national reactions.
To this end, he said the government must find a way to increase productivity to achieve self-sufficiency in providing them adding that the ministry will support wet and dry season farmers for massive production.