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 for farmers would be huge’
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 FG-PGF 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.