By Adelola Amihere
Following Federal Government’s recent decision through a directive by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to stop the importation of maize into the country as part of efforts to increase local production, the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) has warned marketers not to take undue advantage by inflating the price of the commodity unnecessarily.
MAAN said it will produce enough to meet the maize needs for the country.
The CBN had in a letter dated July 13, 2020 with reference number TED/FEM/FPC/GEN/01/004 and addressed to all authorized dealers asked them to discontinue the processing of Forms M meant for the importation of Maize/Corn with immediate effect in a bid to increase local production, stimulate a rapid economic recovery, safeguard rural livelihoods and increase jobs which were lost as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, National President, MAAN, Dr Abubakar Funtua while expressing gratitude to the federal government for the ban disclosed that despite its initial target of producing 25 miliom Metric tonnes of maize during this year’s planting season, the expected target will be reduced by 25 to 30 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic and insecurity.
According to him, MAAN is currently cultivating 250,000 hectares of land and has been able to secure N16 billion this year from the CBN which it distributed to its farmers in kind in the form of inputs such as the fertilizers, seeds etc.
He said: “Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to brief you of the immense benefits this ban will bring to maize farmers and other critical stakeholders. This planting season (2020), the CBN has supported the whole value chain of maize production; from the production of all needed inputs to land preparations to harvesting, aggregation and storage. This year 2020 wet season programme maize production, over 25,000 hectares of land have been cultivated by MAAN members only, with this and other partners, maize production would be doubled.
“To achieve this, the CBN has supported by providing high yielding maize seeds to all our members. With all these great steps taken by the government, the country can now be self- sufficient in maize production in the next few months if we all believe in the capacity of our farmers and put our hands on the plough.
“We have done it before and we can achieve it again as it was done in 2005. Therefore, there is no need for any end user to seek for maize importation. We are moving more into large dry season farming where we are sure that it will increase the availability of maize grains for all end users.”
Speaking further, Dr Funtua who appealed to states who have comparative advantage in maize production to partner with MAAN by providing large arable lands for maize cultivation also disclosed that the total quantity of maize produced last year was about 20 million tons with an average national demand of 18million tonnes yearly out of which 60percent are consumed by the poultry farmers and the rest 40percent to industrial and other usage.
Responding to questions over the concerns raised by the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) on the high cost of the maize grain for feed production, the MAAN president admitted that they had entered into an agreement with PAN in 2018 to off-take maize but unfortunately the agreement failed because of the low price at that time and farmers refusal to sell at the agreed price.
“But now PAN has officially written to us that they are demanding 1.5million tonnes of maize between now and December .We held a meeting with them yesterday together with the minister and we are looking at ways to get the maize for them.
“It’s not as if the maize is not available but the maize that is available is with the merchants, as farmers have sold their grains so the grains merchants are the ones hoarding the maize because of their own interest and that is why we are appealing to the merchants and the farmers to not use the opportunity of ban in maize importation to hike the price.
“With our members who are both merchants and suppliers and we agreed that we are going to provide the maize to the poultry farmers before the new ones come all this problem is just for a few months it will be over because the new maize will start coming by the end of August. Prices of the maize have gone up now because the ones with the farmers have been exhausted and the merchants are hiking the prices,” he stated.