By Chinyere Anyanwu [email protected]
Agriculture in Nigeria is dominated by small-scale farmers who are engaged in the production of the bulk of food requirements of the country.
Small-scale farmers are regarded as people with landholdings of less than 10 hectares and they make up about 80 per cent of Nigeria’s farming population and are responsible for at least 80-90 per cent of food production in Nigeria, especially maize.
Maize, grown as local ‘money spinner’, is the world’s highest supplier of calorie with caloric supply of about 19.5 per cent as it provides more calorie than rice (16.5 per cent) and wheat (15 per cent) and combines with wheat and rice to supply more than 50 per cent of global caloric intake.
It is often said that growing maize by small-scale farmers can overcome hunger in households and the aggregate effect could double food production in Africa.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), about 4.7 million tonnes of maize were produced on the average between 1990 and 2015 in Nigeria and the contribution of maize to total grains produced in Nigeria increased from 8.7 per cent in 1980 to about 22 per cent in 2003. About 561.39 hectares of Nigerian land were planted with maize, which constitutes about 61 per cent of total cultivable land in Nigeria. Furthermore, the FAO in 2017 reported that Nigeria produced 10.5 million metric tonnes of maize in 2016/2017. In 2019, maize production rose to 12.6 million metric tonnes, leaving Nigeria on the second spot as South Africa is said to have averaged 12.9 million metric tonnes per year within 2014 and 2019.
Sadly, maize productivity is being threatened by the current insecurity from Boko Haram, herdsmen attacks, rainfall deficit and low-level cultivation of improved and drought-tolerant maize varieties. Thus, the aforementioned factors explain why maize production declined in 2020 from 12.6 million tonnes produced in 2019 to 12.4 million tonnes representing a 1.56 per cent reduction.
Also, farmers are worried that cheaper maize imported from other African countries will crash the price in the country’s market and also limit their share of the larger African market.
The reason for their worry is simple and that is, aside the above mentioned factors, for long, the nation’s exported items at the international market, have remained low on quality, quantity, and packaging, among others, as opposed to other African countries.
Data obtained from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and analysed by Daily Sun revealed that Nigeria imported its second-largest volume of maize in a decade in 2019, maintaining the same level recorded the previous year, despite calls by farmers for a restriction on the importation of the cereal.
Although the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) announced a ban on maize importation in an effort to boost local production, industry stakeholders have expressed fears that Nigeria may not reach its full potential in terms of maize production.
However, Bayer Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Bayer AG, Germany, has set its sights on changing the current narrative by the introduction of its Bayer ‘Much More Maize’ toolkit.
The toolkit includes Dekalb (quality hybrid maize seed), Lagon (selective pre-emergence herbicide specifically designed for maize and cassava), Decis (a protective herbicide option) and Belt Expert (a highly effective crop protection product).
Speaking at the just-concluded third edition of the Nigeria Maize Conference which held virtually in Abuja, the President, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Alhaji Bello Abubakar Annur, stated that the challenges facing maize production and the inadequate supply of certified seeds in Nigeria acted as catalysts that spurred the birth of the Nigeria Maize Conference by Bayer Nigeria.
In tackling the challenges, he highlighted some of the achievements of MAAN which include the facilitation of access to mechanisation, capacity building of its members on good agronomic practises and the empowerment of more than one million farmers through the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
According to him, “Nigeria needs to aim higher in maize production and we expect more investment in agriculture and with such investment, we don’t expect anything less than higher produce, and increase in maize production to bridge the gap in both industrial and local consumption.”
Commenting on how maize production could be increased through good agronomic practices, the Market Development Regional Manager, Bayer Crop Science in sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. David Wangila, introduced Bayer’s integrated maize portfolio and hybrid seeds as solutions while adding that the hybrid seeds have the yield potential of up to 10.9 tonnes per hectare and are also tolerant to striga, leaf diseases, Maize Lethal Necrosis (MLN) and the maize streak virus.
For his part, Mr. Joseph Kibaki, the Agronomic Operations Manager (East, West and Central Africa) Field Solutions for Bayer, said while their seeds are tolerant to some of these viruses, it is also important to ensure proper seed treatment to protect the potential of valuable seeds.
Kibaki stated that with proper implementation of the Much More Maize portfolio and good agronomic practices, farmers could see results in as little as four weeks with appreciable growth of their maize crops along with increase in profitability.