AS the scarcity of maize bites harder, Nigeria is on the verge of experiencing crisis in the poultry sub-sector and the agricultural sector at large, except something urgent is done to ensure immediate importation of the essential commodity.
Recently, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) placed a ban on forex for maize importation after the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) wrote to the apex bank for permission to import maize to make up for the deficit.
However, the same CBN recently granted approval to four companies to import 142,000 metric tons of maize into the country to make up for the shortfalls in maize supply.
In the same vein, one of the concessionaires of the 19 silos inNigeria, Charles Ugwu, appealed to the Nigerian government to grant them some quota so that they can join in the importation of maize to address maize deficit in the country.
Recall that the Federal Government on May 21, 2019, concessioned 19 silos with the target of generating N6bn over a 10-year period.
The then Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the concessionaires would provide performance bonds as collateral, and a guarantee against non-performance, whilst the ministry would retain the contractual rights to terminate for non-performance.
Ogbeh, noted that the country had 33 silos, the government would retain six, while eight would be concessioned later, while 19 had been concessioned.
The 19 concessioned silo complexes are in Ado-Ekiti, Akure, Bauchi, Ogoja, Ikenne, Jos, Gaya, Sokoto, Gombe, Makurdi, Ibadan, Ezillo, Bulasa, Kaduna, Kwali, Jahun, Lafiagi, Igbariam and Uyo.
Ugwu, while speaking with Nigerian Tribune, said he was recently granted access to the silo in Ezilo which he is currently refurbishing.
“They just gave us the certificate, papers and approval to enter the silo and begin to take it over.
“In the case of Ezilo Silo where am involved, we are refurbishing the place by bringing it up, servicing it and getting it ready.
“But we are appealing to government to give us some import quota for maize and soybean to enable our own area that has challenges with the supply of feed for the birds for poultry farmers, pig farmers and other animal husbandry so that we can supply feed to them, because feed basically depends on maize and soybean largely.
“As a silo operator, I need to have maize and with the failure of the crop and the non-availability of local maize and soybean, we are asking government to give us some quota.”
He urged the government to consider their investment in silos and grant them some quotas to import maize as they have granted some foreign companies.
“They are already giving some quota. They have given some quota to import to foreign companies. We’re saying that we are indigenous investors who invested in the silos, we ought to be encouraged. We are appealing to them to give us some import quota.
“We did investment since 2014 up to this point. So, now that we’ve taken over the silos, they should encourage us by giving us some import quota.
“So that at least we can keep our place working and generate some income and use it to support local farmers who will now grow local maize and soybean from Benue and all other places.
“I produce rice bran from my rice mill, and the feed is made up of rice bran, maize and soybean, so it will help our business to come alive.”
Also recently, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the release of 5000 Metric Tons of maize to poultry farmers as a move to meet up with the shortage in maize supply.
The Director-General of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Dr Onallo Ankpa, said the Ministry of Agriculture had already written them in that regard.
While commending the President for the gesture, he said the 5,000MT of maize might just serve the farmers for about two weeks while they subsequently source maize from the market at high price.
“The President approved 5,000 Metric Tonnes of maize for us, I have gotten the paper from the Minister of Agriculture, very soon, we will work out the logistics for our people to access it.
“5,000 Metric Tonnes is nothing, if I want to give it to the states, if I give them three trucks and this can only last for three weeks for the whole nation,so it is nothing, but half bread is better than none. We will source the deficit from whatever price people are buying,” he noted.
The National Chairman of the National Association of Grain Storage Practitioners of Nigeria, Chief Eric Ozongwu, said about 50 per cent of silos across the country is empty.
Ozongwu said only about two of those who won the bid during the silos concessioning have actually taken over the silo complexes.
While recounting the dangers of importation and the current maize scarcity, Ozongwu said food crisis is imminent if steps were not taken immediately to address it.
“About 50 per cent of the silos that we have are all empty from the look of things, even the ones that we were told that were concessioned, the people that won the bid have not taken possession of the silo complexes, although about two silos have been taken over, despite the fact that they have paid for a very long time, they have not had access, their money had been tied down, the ones that had access to the silos are just doing routine maintenance because those silos have been moribund for a very long time.
“It is a very serious situation, you can›t bring in maize, the ones we have are not enough, poultry farmers need the maize, there is food crisis and the prices of maize have gone haywire, and when the price of maize goes up, automatically it affects the price of sorghum, and with this Coronavirus and the crisis in the North, there could be impending food crisis if care is not taken,” Ozongwu added.
Meanwhile, a major stakeholder in the Nigerian poultry value chain, who craved anonymity, has described the 5,000 metric tonnes of maize to be rolled out by the federal government as subsidy for farmers to cushion the effect of maize shortage occasioned by the ban on forex for maize importation as meager compared to the volume poultry farmers need to operate at optimum level.
He said: “5000 metric tonnes divided by 36 states equals to approximately 138.88 tonnes less than five trailers per state, this would not solve the problems.
“Do not forget, this is just a directive, whether or not grains is available is the major concern. If maize is available it is a welcome and appreciable development. You see, some days back, they claimed ECOWAS borrowed them 5000 metric tonnes of maize.
“Is that the one to be released? And it was said 3900 tonnes were actually released and this would have been used for human consumption by internally displaced people.
You know some people know for sure many things won’t work but they just want to be heard. Many of these things are mere political statements and propaganda.”
The source, while giving a hint on the movement of grains from a Federal Government-owned silo in Ibadan, on a large scale to the North, said: “They have plenty stocked there during the Corona time around March. You see, the silo belongs to the federal government for storing of maize but when the grains were being stored early this year around March, someone told me the silo had been leased to a private firm for use.”