Farm­ers panic over maize im­port

Daily Trust - - NEWS - By Hamisu Muhammed, Hus­sein Ya­haya, Vin­cent A. Yusuf & Simon Echewo­fun Sun­day

The re­ported ap­proval given to some com­pa­nies to im­port maize will crash the price lo­cally and make its pro­duc­tion un­prof­itable, farm­ers across the coun­try have said.

The lo­cal farm­ers' fears were premised on the alarm raised by Katsina State Gov­er­nor Aminu Masari and Se­na­tor Adamu Aliero last week that a ship laden with 50,000 tons of maize had re­cently ar­rived Nige­ria.

Masari and Aliero re­port­edly in­dicted the Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Kemi Adeo­sun and Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Audu Og­beh for grant­ing li­cense to im­porters to bring in maize from Brazil into the coun­try.

The duo made the ac­cu­sa­tion in Kebbi state dur­ing the APC gover­nors’ work­ing visit to the state led by the Gov­er­nor of Imo state, Rochas Oko­rocha.

Masari al­leged that Og­beh and Adeo­sun were re­spon­si­ble for the 300 met­ric tons of maize im­ported from Brazil to Nige­ria.

Aliero, a one­time gov­er­nor of Kebbi State said, “We have it from a re­li­able author­ity that your min­istries is­sued the li­censes to them. This will not help our lo­cal farm­ers. We have agreed that there should not be the im­por­ta­tion of any grain into the coun­try.” The two min­is­ters, how­ever, de­nied the al­le­ga­tion.

Al­haji Nuhu Aminu, Chair­man of the Kaduna State chap­ter of All Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (AFAN) told Daily Trust that this is com­ing at a time when farm­ers have heeded the call of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari to go back to the farm and that they had in­vested heav­ily in agri­cul­ture, with lit­tle or no sub­sidy from the govern­ment.

He said sell­ing a 100kg bag of maize be­low N8, 000 would be dis­as­trous and will deter farm­ers from cul­ti­va­tion.

‘Im­pli­ca­tion would be huge’ for farm­ers

The Na­tional Pres­i­dent of AFAN, Arc Kabiru Ibrahim, said the im­pli­ca­tion for farm­ers would be huge. He said the goal of the ad­min­is­tra­tion was to dis­cour­age the im­por­ta­tion of what can be pro­duced in Nige­ria.

“If we open the door to im­port­ing all those things we can pro­duce, it’s not good for us,” he said.

A maize farmer in Sabon Wuse, Niger State, said the in­crease in the price of maize per bag in­formed the de­ci­sion of many farm­ers to go into farm­ing this year, warn­ing that any at­tempt to open it to im­por­ta­tion will crash the price and make it unattrac­tive to its grow­ers na­tion­wide.

“When maize was sold be­tween N4,000 to N5,000 per 100kg bag, many farm­ers were not grow­ing it for com­mer­cial pur­poses be­cause they can’t make a profit. But when the price jumped up to be­tween N15,000 t0 N17,000, many farm­ers turned to it and kept many into the pro­duc­tion line,” he said.

He warned that any at­tempt to im­port the pro­duce will crash the price and deter farm­ers from grow­ing it.

The Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion has set a tar­get of 20 mil­lion met­ric tons for Nige­ria from the lo­cal re­quire­ment of 15.5 mil­lion tons.

Daily Trust find­ings have shown that a bag of 100kg of maize sells from N15, 000 to N19, 500 across var­i­ous mar­kets in the coun­try.

The farm­ers feared that if maize is im­ported mas­sively into the coun­try, it will not only crash the mar­ket prices of the prod­uct but it will erode the gains made in the sec­tor in last two years.

The Fed­eral Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Devel­op­ment said the na­tional de­mand for maize is es­ti­mated at 15.5 mil­lion met­ric tons, while cur­rent do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion stands at 10.5 mil­lion met­ric tons, leav­ing a de­mand gap of 5 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

In his re­sponse, Chief Og­beh said: “If I had the power, I would have stopped the im­por­ta­tion of goods into Nige­ria 30 years ago. I don’t know any­thing about it. My min­istry doesn’t know any­thing about it. It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of Cus­toms to stop them.”

Adeo­sun said, “I don’t know any­thing about it. One NGO ap­proached us to im­port drugs for IDPs and we told them that they should buy in Nige­ria.”

Com­pa­nies im­port­ing corn pay 5% duty – Cus­toms

But when con­tacted, the Nige­ria Cus­toms Ser­vice (NCS) con­firmed that some com­pa­nies of­ten make bulk im­por­ta­tion of corn and that the Ser­vice en­sures it col­lects five per cent as the duty rate.

The Pub­lic Re­la­tion Of­fi­cer at the head­quar­ters, Joseph At­tah said: “I can con­firm to you that a num­ber of com­pa­nies do bulk im­por­ta­tion of corn at five per cent duty rate.”

Also, the Di­rec­tor of In­for­ma­tion, Min­istry of Fi­nance, Sal­isu Na'inna Dan­batta re­ferred our re­porter to the com­ments made by the Min­is­ter Adeo­sun last week at the FGPGF Par­ley in Kebbi, where she promised to look into the is­sue of the im­por­ta­tion of grains in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the min­istry of agric.

How­ever, a source at the Nige­rian Cus­toms Ser­vice told our re­porter that maize and other grains are not on the im­port pro­hi­bi­tion list or even among the 41 items that the CBN de­nied ac­cess to forex from the of­fi­cial sources.

The source said maize, like other grains, has been com­ing through the sea in large quan­ti­ties into the coun­try in re­cent past be­cause the coun­try has no ca­pac­ity to meet the lo­cal de­mand in those days. He said mostly the im­ports are for in­dus­trial uses, not house­hold.

But he noted that with the re­cent move by the fed­eral govern­ment to en­cour­age lo­cal pro­duc­ers and grow agric-based rev­enue, there should be some ur­gent mea­sures to pro­tect the lo­cal farm­ers.

The source said train­ing on stor­age of such grains and preser­va­tion is needed and stan­dard­iza­tion and spec­i­fi­ca­tion com­pli­ance must be given pri­or­ity in order to get the at­ten­tion of the buy­ers.

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