Mr Shola Fashedemi, the Commercial Manager, AFEX, has appealed to the Federal Government to assist in stopping importation of maize with a view to encourage massive maize production and increase farmers’ income.
Fashedemi told newsmen at the sideline of the ongoing Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) and AGRIKEXPO 2017 Conference in Abuja on Wednesday.
AFEX is an institution that supports Africa’s agricultural potential, support African farmers to achieve food security and improve Africa’s overall global trade competitiveness.
According to him, the continue importation of maize into the country remains a threat to local farmers and undermines farmers’ effort toward massive production of the commodity to meet local demand.
He said local farmers have put in a lot of money into the production in recent time in order to increase production of the commodity to become self-sufficient in maize production.
“Farmers have put in a lot of money into maize production in the country, thinking they will be shielded by government in terms of discouraging importation of what we can produce to make good returns.
“The truth is farmers are not isolated from the global market. Importation of maize into the country is affecting our farmers.
“What happened these past years was that prices of maize were high which led to the importation of the product into the country.
“The prices of consumed product which are made from this maize did not rise correspondingly; as a result, producers have to look at other ways to get cheap maize.
“They said prices of food items are going to be expensive for the common man if government does not do something about raw material.
“So from the policy perspectives, they said how can price be dropped so that food will be cheap. I understand that this led to huge importation.
“Unfortunately, this is coming at a time we are about to harvest. Farmers are saying that this would affect them negatively because they have invested so much in the production processes,” he said.
Mr Fashedemi added that it was essentially bad to import, making agriculture unattractive and undermining President Buhari’s policy of diversification of the country’s economy through agriculture.
According to him, the current price of maize goes for N140, 000 per tonne from the farm and you have to transport it as a processor, while the maize from US goes for N90, 000 per tonne.
He added that it was a common logic that everybody will prefer cheap item to expensive ones.
He attributed the shortage in supply of maize to the exportation of the commodity to neighbouring countries, forgetting that the country’s local industries that produced the food that we consumed also need the maize.
“One of the things we faced last year aside other factors that led to the shortage in maize was neighbouring Africa countries like Niger coming to buy the commodity from us.
“It is not a bad thing they were buying from us because they were actually paying high for the commodity, but we forgot that we have internal demand too.
“So the maize that should have been used for raw material for our processing industries were leaving the country and that makes the prices to be high.
“Although, it was a good price because everybody went into massive production of maize thinking the prices will last for long,” he said.
Mr Fashedemi explained that the country was currently producing about 7 million tonnes of maize, saying that the demand for the commodity was about 14 to 15 million tonnes.
Fashedemi, however, called for government’s support for local farmers to produce more in order to bridge the demand gap.
The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh recently announced that the outbreak of armyworm has led to high price of food items in the market, leading to the importation of maize to meet local demand.