…Pests ravaging farms in Zambia, Malawi
Outbreaks of crop damaging pests,armyworms and locusts, in several African countries, may put more pressure on Nigerian maize, as buyers’ troop into the country to source for the produce.
Armyworms have ravaged a total of 134,471 hectares of maize farms in Zambia and Malawi in January alone, while a swarm of red locusts is eating up crops in Zambia, according to data obtained from the wire services.
Already, the armyworm infestations have been recorded in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Mozambique, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
“The demand for maize is very high now. A lot of foreigners come to buy up our maize directly from the farms, even before they are harvested,” said Anodona Kuhe, chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Benue State chapter.
“With armyworms ravaging the continent, then there will be more pressure on our maize from foreigners,” Kuhe said.
Maize is becoming scarcer in the Nigerian market, owing to the armyworm outbreak of last year. Increase in local sourcing by industries that use maize as raw material, as well as the high rate of export of Nigerian grains across the African continent have been causing marked shortages in the local market.
This makes little available for local consumers, leading to price increase of maize. A ton of maize now sells for N175, 000 on February 22nd ,as against N130, 000 it sold for in November last year.
This shows a 35 percent increase in the price of maize within the last three months.
Poultry farmers, producers of feeds, flour, noodles, biscuits, brewers, starch, confectioners, among others, who use maize as a raw material, have been severely hit by the price increase, as this has shot up their production cost.
“This would definitely increase the pressure on our maize. We don’t even have enough to meet our own local demand and industries that use maize as a raw material are already finding it difficult to source for the produce,” Olatunji Adenola, national president, Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), told BusinessDay.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest maize producer before South Africa, churning out seven million metric tons per annum, according to data from the country’s agricultural roadmap.
Maize is the leading cereal grown in Nigeria, closely followed by sorghum and rice.
Audu Ogbeh, minister of Agriculture, had earlier raised an alarm over the high export of Nigerian grains across the Africa continent, stating that unless it is curtailed, the Nigeria market may be bereft of food.
On Monday, the United Nation declared famine in South Sudan, due to the threat of hunger on the lives of 100,000 Sudanese. The UN agency also warned that 1.4 million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition could die this year, owing to famine in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
According to farmers and experts, Nigeria can avert the pressure on maize by putting measures in place that will ramp up production.
“We have the arable land and population to make this happen. It takes three months to grow and harvest grains, so all-year-round farming is possible,” Muda Yusuf, director general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said.
“The more opportunities we have for export, the better for us as a country because of the dollar proceeds,” Yusuf said, adding that output can only increase when farmers have incentives and use mechanisation and modern farming techniques.
Adenola, who was earlier quoted, said, “the government must mobilise people to start farming maize to avert pressure on our grains. Provide farmers with improved seeds and mechanisation. Farmers need incentives to farm all year round.”
BusinessDay had earlier reported that experts urged the government to provide adequate surveillance and necessary pesticides to avoid the re-occurrence of armyworm infestation in the country.
The international benchmark of maize price averaged $159 per tonne in January, nearly four percent higher than December last year, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), in its latest food prices report.
The FAO attributed the price value to strong demand of the crop.