Maize production in Nigeria has recorded the highest level since the nation’s independence in 1960. This is according to reports from United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The production of maize increased by 16% in 2021 over the previous year. This a significant improvement for a country that has struggled for decades with below-par domestic production of food.
The rise came a year after the Central Bank of Nigeria halted government-supplied foreign exchange for the importation of maize, in a bid to cut imports and boost domestic production. The government did not stop importers from sourcing dollars from the black market.
Global food scarcity
The figure is also coming at a time of growing concerns of global food scarcity as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.the chairman of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said Nigerians should be prepared for an impending food crisis within the next two to three months and urged the government to immediately stop the ongoing export of maize. The government has previously lifted its ban on maize exports.
“There will be a shortage of wheat, maize and a lot of products because as we speak, Russia and Ukraine do almost 30 per cent of the world’s urea and 26 per cent of the world’s potash; and even phosphate also, they are one of the largest (producers) in the world. There would be a scarcity of food generally, we would not be able to access fertilizers going forward, we would not see the effects now, but in the next two, three months. Even the US will not be able to do the same number of tonnage they did last year because of this,” said Dangote.
Data published by the USDA shows that Nigeria produced 11.6 million metric tons of maize in 2021, the highest quantity made in the last six decades. The figure when compared to the 10 million metric tonnes recorded in 2020 shows a 16 per cent increase.
Maize, one of the most popular food crops in Nigeria, is widely consumed by millions of Nigerians and is also used for the production of animal feeds. However, local production has for years lagged consumption, a situation that has fueled importation with implications for Nigeria’s currency and job creation.
In 2019, Nigeria was Africa’s second largest maize producer after South Africa and the 14th largest producer globally. Yet, its local maize demand continues to surpass supply thus creating an annual demand gap of about 4 million metric tonnes annually. According to USDA, maize import into Nigeria doubled from 500,000 metric tonnes to 1 million metric tonnes between October 2019 and October 2020.
In 2020, due to the increased quantity of maize imported to the country, the CBN banned the issuance of forex for the importation of the cereal. The bank has also financed efforts to boost maize farming.
However, although local maize production is still far off demand, the decision appears to be yielding fruit as importation of maize in the country declined to 200,000 metric tons in 2021 compared to 300,000 metric tons recorded in 2020.