BY MARK ITSIBOR, BUKOLA IDOWU |
In a bid to crash the price of maize currently pegged at N155,000 per metric tonne, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is set to release about 300,000 metric tonnes of maize into the market from strategic anchors under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
The planned release followed moves by critical stakeholders, working with relevant government and security agencies, to put a halt to reprehensible and speculative activities of middlemen and bandits respectively.
Prior to CBN’s collaboration with the Nigeria Customs Service, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the release of 30,000 tonnes of maize from the National Strategic Grain Reserve to support the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) at a subsidised rate.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja, the national president of the Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN), Alhaji Bello Abubakar, attributed the current shortfall in the quantity of maize available in the market to insecurity around the major maize producing belt of Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Kano States.
Abubakar also identified the activities of hoarders and middlemen who engage in hoarding of the grain.
Also speaking, a prime anchor under the maize production, Dr Edwin Uche, noted that banditry, drought in some parts of the country in 2020 and activities of middlemen were responsible for the current high price.
He, however, noted that the planned dry season farming which is first of its kind in the country, timely distribution of inputs to farmers and improved security, would go a long way to enhance production and ensure stability in price.
He expressed optimism about the price crashing to N120,000 per metric tonne in the next couple of weeks.
Another major stakeholder in the maize production, Mr Ayodeji Balogun of AFEX, attributed the hike in price to cash-flow problem which has compelled farmers to resort to collecting cash from buyers ahead of production and resort to side-selling, especially across the borders of neighbouring countries due to higher prices.
It would be recalled that the CBN in 2020 had provided credit facility and seed support to maize farmers to enable them increase their yield, particularly due to the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of the bank’s financing framework, the CBN has facilitated the funding of maize farmers and processors through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) Commodity Association, Private/Prime Anchors, State Governments, Maize Aggregation Scheme (MAS) and the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS).
Confirming the release of credit to its members by the CBN, MAAN president, Abubakar, disclosed that over 200,000 farmers are targeted to produce more than 25 million metric tonnes of maize in the 2020/2021 planting season.
According to him, the credit secured from the CBN is being distributed to members along the maize value chain nationwide.
He expressed confidence that the support of the CBN would boost production and ultimately ensure availability as well as stability in the price of the commodity. In spite of cases of insecurity in some parts of the country, he said farmers are committed to meeting the objective of food security.
Abubakar also charged middlemen not to take advantage of the supply gap to hike the price of the grains, even as he assured that farmers would maintain reasonable price.
He urged the federal government to put in place mechanism to protect farmers from market triggered shocks.
Meanwhile, with about 100,000 hectres of farmland already prepared for the novel dry season maize cultivation from January through March, it is expected that 80 per cent of the total yield would be harvested from North West and North East alone in May this year.