The prices of maize are down by almost 50 per cent since the beginning of massive harvest last month.
Many stakeholders are forecasting more downward trend in the coming months when harvest reaches its peak.
Three months ago, prices of maize, caused by scarcity, reached record high of over N220,000 per metric tonnes in some parts of the country, prompting national outcry from other value chain users like poultry farmers and feed millers.
This forced the Federal Government to reverse its earlier ban on forex for maize importation to grant some big farmers and millers to import over 220,000 metric tones, in addition to the release of 5,000 metric tonnes from the little reserve left from the nation’s Strategic Grains Reserve.
The middlemen were accused of hording the commodity to take advantage of the shutdown of national and international borders to raise prices, triggered by uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now with harvest going on in major producing areas, the price of maize across the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and Nasarawa State is now N12,000 per 100kg bag (N120,000 per metric tonnes). Report from other states indicate even lower prices, such as N100,000 metric tonnes and N110,000 per metric tonnes.
But now, buyers are going after farmers in some farming communities in Nasarawa State to mop what they have to sell.
Mrs Aisha Abdullahi was given money by one of the grain merchants from Kano to stock maize for him.
Her target is to get 100 tonnes, but there are other buyers in the market, so she moves from village to village around Doma and Obi local government areas in Nasarawa State, seeking the produce.
Also, Malam Musa Akwaba buys for one of the middlemen.
He got about N800,000 to buy the produce. According to him, many others are doing the same business.
Their job is to buy for their masters, while they too make some money if they have good negotiating skills.
An agricultural economist, Mr Adedeji Ibrahim, said it would be difficult for government to regulate this practice in a free market economy such as ours, where forces of demand and supply rule.
He said one way to also regulate this activity was for government to have a very good functional strategic reserve system so that when prices go very high, it would intervene.
Our correspondent who visited some markets in Abuja and Nasarawa State observed that most bags of maize were marked as ‘sold.’
At the moment, it appears that farmers are smiling because the COVID-19 pandemic seems to have brought opportunities for them to make money.