HISTORY OF MAIZE DAY
Maize (‘Zea mays’) can historically be traced back to 1500 B.C. in southern Mexico. Early Mexican farmers domesticated a wild grass called ‘teosinte’ by picking the best and biggest kernels, and ultimately, the famous crop we recognize today as maize was established. The domesticated maize circulated fast throughout Mexico because it is rich in nutrients, easy to grow, store, carry, prepare, and eat. It went down the coast to Peru and beyond, moving across the
North until it eventually reached the Native Americans and in Africa. Today, maize is a global crop and a major part of our diet. According to International Grains Council (IGC) report on global maize production between 2018 and 2021, the production figure stood at 2.141, 2.187, 2.212, 2.289 million metrics tons respectively and a forecast of 2.290 million metrics tons in
Maize has become a staple food in many parts of the worldIn addition, maize is eaten directly by humans, used as feed for animals and made into corn-starch and corn syrup products. Sugar-rich varieties called sweet corn are grown for human consumption as kernels, while field varieties are typically used for animal feed and corn-based human food.
Maize grows as tall as 23 feet and as short as 8 feet, and the beloved sweet corn is usually the shorter kind.
Maize is rich in vitamin C; the antioxidant helps protect body cells from damage and ward off cancer and heart diseases. Yellow corn is rich in carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect against lens damage that causes cataracts, making it great for the eyes. The six types of maize or corn are sweet corn, dent corn, pod corn, flour corn, flint corn, and popcorn.
2. WHEN DID NIGERIA INTRODUCE MAIZE?
It originated from South and Central America. It was introduced to West Africa by the Portuguese in the 10th century. Maize is one of the important grains in Nigeria, not only on the basis of the number of farmers that engaged in its cultivation, but also in its economic value.
Maize occupies approximately 24% of farmland in Africa and the average yield stagnates at around 2 tons/hectare/year. According to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, the largest African producer of maize is Nigeria with over 33 million tons, followed by South Africa, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
Maize is a major important cereal crop being cultivated in the rainforest and the derived savannah zones of Nigeria. Maize has been in the diet of Nigerians for centuries. It started as a subsistence crop and has gradually become more important crop. Maize has now risen to a commercial crop, which many agro-based industries depend on as raw materials. Maize is highly yielding, easy to process, readily digested and cost less than other cereals. It is also a versatile crop, allowing it to grow across a range of agro-ecological zones.
It is an important source of carbohydrate and if eaten in the immature state, provides useful quantities of Vitamin A and C. Maize thrives best in a warm climate and is now grown in most of the countries that have
suitable climatic conditions. Maize production in Africa was around 75 million tons in 2018, representing 7.5% of global maize production. Maize occupies approximately 24% of farmland in Africa. Africa imports 28% of its required maize grain from countries outside the continent as most of the maize production in
Africa is done under rain-fed conditions. Irregular rainfall can trigger shortages and famines during occasional droughts.
3. MAIZE FARMING IN NIGERIA
Increase in maize farming in Nigeria has been achieved greatly by expansion in area harvested rather than
increase in yield. The area harvested increased from 2.8 million hectares in 1986 to over 3 million hectares
in 2000 and over 6 million hectares by 2011. Of the total global production (2.141 M tons) in 2018, Nigeria,
the largest producer in Sub-Sahara Africa produced 11 million tons representing 0.009% of the world
production, a figure maintained in 2019. Based on production potentials, Nigeria has been divided into
four groups namely low, medium, medium to high and high maize production potential. The average yield
of maize farming in Nigeria as in other Sub-Sahara Africa countries is generally low 1.68 tons/hectare, which
is very low compared to average yield in United States 9.3 tons/hectare over the same period.
4. NIGERIA’S MAIZE PRODUCTION IN 2020 AND 2021
Nigeria who is the 11th largest producer of maize in the world is producing 10 times more maize yearly
now than it did at independence in 1960, data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
shows. Nigeria recorded a boost in the production of maize which rose from 12.8 to 13.94 million metric
tons between 2020 and 2021. But despite being the largest producer of the commodity in Africa, farmers
are worried that cheaper maize imported from other African countries will crash the price in the country’s
market and also limit their share of the larger African market.
5. WHY MAIZE DAY IS IMPORTANT
This crop has fed and nourished many generations of human civilization and continues to be a vital part of
our Global Food system. Maize was borrowed from its indigenous people, celebrating this day might help
to reset our thinking about the debt we owe to indigenous culture, and about the tasks that lie ahead.
6. IMPORTANCE OF MAIZE
Maize is the most important cereal crop in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and an important staple food for more
than 1.2 billion people in SSA and Latin America. An IITA Nigeria Food Consumption and Nutrition Survey
conducted in 2003 showed that maize is the most consumed staple food in households at about 20%,
followed by cassava – 16.5%, rice – 11.9%, and cowpea grain – 11.8%. More than 300 million Africans
depend on maize as the main staple food crop. All parts of the crop can be used for food and non-food
products. Maize accounts for 30−50% of low-income household expenditures in Africa. Over 30% of the
caloric intake of people in SSA comes from maize. For these reasons, several African countries that depend
on maize as a staple food crop and have adopted agricultural policies to maintain a steady supply of the
commodity through increased production and productivity of the crop. Maize is also consumed as a
vegetable and it is rich in dietary fiber and other nutrients.
Maize is healthy and great for the eyes. Maize is packed with assorted vitamins and minerals,
and it supports a gluten-free diet and fortifies bone density. As a decent source of lutein and
zeaxanthin, maize also helps maintain your eye health.
2. Maize is one of the important grains in Nigeria, not only on the basis of the number of farmers
that engaged in its cultivation, but also in its economic value.
3. It is a source of nutrition as well as phytochemical compounds. Phytochemicals play an
important role in preventing chronic diseases. It contains various major phytochemicals such
as carotenoids, phenolic compounds, and phytosterols.
4. Maize is a good source of minerals, vitamins, fiber and oil present in maize (rich in embryo).
This oil is used for cooking and soap making companies. Maize starch is famous in
pharmaceutical Industries as diluents and also used in cosmetics.
5. Maize is also used as an animal feed for horses and cows. Maize does not only serve as a food
item but functions as a multi-purpose product with a wide range of uses. Its husks can be
utilized to make brooms, mattress pads, etc. Due to its high starch content, Maize can be
fermented to produce ethanol, which in turn can be used as a biofuel. It is also widely used in
alcohol and beverage industries
7. AREA AND CONSUMPTION
According to FAO (2017), the total maize harvest area in Africa was estimated at 40 million hectares, with
Nigeria being the top producer (16%) followed by Tanzania. Worldwide maize consumption is estimated to
be more than 116 million tons with 30% and 21% of the consumption occurring globally and in SSA
respectively. Around 14 countries in SSA consume 85–95% of white maize as their staple food. White maize
fetches premium prices in Southern Africa where it represents the main staple food, whereas yellow maize
is preferred as animal feed in most parts of South America and the Caribbean. Maize is processed and
prepared in various forms depending on the country. Ground maize is prepared into porridge in Eastern,
Southern, and West Africa. In all parts of Africa, green (fresh) maize is boiled or roasted on its cob to fill the
gap when the supply of grain is low.
8. USES OF MAIZE IN NIGERIA
Maize is a staple food for about 50% of Sub-Sahara African population. It is an important source of
carbohydrate, protein, iron, vitamin B and minerals. As food, the whole grain, freshly green or dried, may
be used or may be processed traditionally by wet and dry milling methods to give a variety of food products.
Preparation and uses of maize alone or in combination with other food material as staple food or snacks in
Nigeria include the followings: ogi (in hot and cold forms), tuwo, donkunnu, maasa, couscous, akple, gwate,
nakia, egbo, abari, donkwa, ajepasi, aadun, kokoro, elekute etc.
The bulk of the concentrated feed to farm animals consist of grains, and maize is the most important and
preferred one due to its low cost (compared to other cereals), low fiber content and high starch content
which consist of concentrated energy food that gives highest conversion of dry substance to meat, milk and
eggs. Maize stover, which is the plant residue after the ear has been removed (contains 30 to 40% of the
plants total nitrogen, 75% of the potassium, sulphur and magnesium and almost all the calcium) is used by
many farmers in developing countries as roughage feed for livestock.
9. TECHNOLOGY AND MAIZE PRODUCTION IN NIGERIA
Maize production must increase three-fold in sub-Saharan Africa to meet the needs of future generations.
Sustainably increasing maize production will require a portfolio of complementary technologies and
policies. On this day, we highlight some challenges to achieve this improvement. Improved nutritional
density of maize in farmers’ fields and increased adoption of new varieties and faster varietal replacement.
Increased fertilizer use should increase maize yields but there is increasing evidence that low and variable
returns on investment can limit uptake. Finally, adoption of new technologies is not uniform, with lower
rates of adoption by female farmers. Without addressing gender specific challenges to adoption,
technologies will never achieve their desired impacts. Nigeria, with a population of about 200 million
people, must end food import which has continued to drain the country’s external reserve, creating
unemployment and disruption in commodity value chain.
10. CHALLENGES TO MAIZE FARMING IN NIGERIA
Nigeria’s inability to meet her expected maize production and exportation rate is not without reasons.
There are so many bedeviling situations that have undermined both individual and government efforts to
shore up maize production. In view of the importance of maize farming in Nigeria, efforts are continuously
made to increase maize farming yield per unit area of land and to extend areas where it can be grown,
especially the cultivation of dry areas as improved through irrigation.
Traditionally, maize has been mostly grown in forest ecology in Nigeria but large-scale maize farming in
Nigeria has moved to the savanna zone, especially the Northern Guinea savanna, where yield potential is
much higher than in the forest. The challenges are inadequate capital given that most maize farmers are
unable to secure loans from many deposit money banks for lack of collateral. Poor agronomic practices
from maize farmers who are largely subsistence-based and do not practice such things as the use of
fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides for better soil management and pest control. Use of poor maize seed
variety like the Open Pollinated Variety, which are of low-yield and not resistant to diseases and other harsh
The environmental conditions required for maize farming in Nigeria are therefore, superior in the savanna
zone with high solar radiation, less incidence of biotic stresses and natural dryness at time of harvest. Other
challenges include insecurity in key maize production belts. Impact of climate changes leading to
unfavourable weather conditions like inadequate rainfall, drought. Inadequate storage and distribution
facilities which result in the wastage of almost 30 per cent of maize produced in Nigeria.
However, in spite of all efforts, maize farming in Nigeria yields, like in many other Sub-Saharan countries,
is still very low compared to developed countries due to many constraints, which may be biotic, abiotic,
agronomic or others like low soil fertility, pests and diseases, drought, unavailability of improved
germplasm, weeds, un-remunerative prices, uncertain access to markets etc.
11. BIOTIC AND ABIOTIC CONSTRAINTS
Various species of stem borers rank as the most devastating maize pests in SSA. They can cause 20–40%
losses in the field and 30–90% losses in postharvest and during storage. Other pests in SSA include the ear
borer, fall armyworm, cutworm, grain moth, beetle, weevils, grain borer, rootworm, and white grub. The
parasitic Striga weed is another major problem, especially in SSA with 60–92% yield loss recorded in the
Nigerian savanna. Maize diseases in SSA include downy mildew, rust, leaf blight, stalk and ear rots, leaf
spot, maize lethal necrosis (MLN), and maize streak virus (MSV). The major abiotic constraints of maize
production in SSA include drought, heat stress, low soil fertility, and soil acidity.
12. FARMING MAIZE SUCCESSFULLY IN NIGERIA
The steps to take for successful maize farming in Nigeria are as follows:
Choice of Land
The land to be used for maize farming in Nigeria should be well drained sandy loam or loamy soil. These
two types of soil are ideal for planting maize.
Before planting maize, the land must be prepared to receive the maize. This preparation can be done using
any method (Mechanical, Chemical and Manual) that can adequately remove weeds and keep the soil loose
for good seedbed. As much as possible, incorporate residue of the previous crop into the soil. For large
scale planting, clearing method should ensure preservation of the topsoil when uprooting and clearing
trees mechanically. Plant immediately after land preparation to allow maize to get ahead of weeds. When
the land is ploughed mechanically, the depth of planting should not be more than 5 cm (2 inches).
Time of Planting
The two seasons or periods for successful maize farming in Nigeria are:
(i) In the Forest zone, the optimum planting date is between 15 March and 1 April, although planting could
be done as soon as rainfall becomes steady.
(ii) In the Derived Savannah zone, plant as soon as the rainfall becomes steady, between 1-30 April.
(iii) In the Southern Guinea Savannah zone, planting could still be done as late as May and June, depending
13. STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE MAIZE PRODUCTIVITY
To improve maize production in Nigeria, government and farmers must review tariff and non-tariff barriers
on commodities like maize (cross-border embargo) to enable the country access markets within and
outside Africa, which is the aim of the African Continental Free Trade Area; the use of better variety of
maize seeds with high yield, disease-resistant and adaptive quality to ensure more maize are available for
the market; promote mechanized maize production that will reduce human effort and ensure more work
is done and strengthen value chain linkages for maize-based products that will ensure maize produced are
adequately stored, distributed and marketed.
Others include scaling the power of commodity exchanges; aggregation and backward/forward integration;
supporting agricultural research and development; and reducing the risks associated with maize farming
by ensuring funding and bounce-back strategy in cases of loss.
We also want to encourage governments, maize producer/user associations and other relevant
stakeholders across the maize value chain to recognize the importance of maize in industrial production,
household nutrient needs and generation of export earnings. Efforts should also be geared towards
ramping up production to meet domestic needs. Actualizing this would require subsidizing improved maize
seed varieties for massive adoption, developing alternative sources for maize production financing in
addition to other intervention programmes.
14. GETTING VALUE OUT OF THE MAIZE CHAIN
The maize value chain is a very feasible one in Nigeria, but ignorance among maize farmers remains a major
challenge. Farmers are not adopting the use of hybrid seeds. Most often than not, what they plant are the
maize grains that are meant for consumption, or meant for the industries or used as animal feeds. Farmers
need to be ready to give the maize supplemental irrigation if rain doesn’t fall and follow the normal
agronomic practices, apply fertiliser at two weeks, six weeks. If there are insect attacks, then apply
insecticide. About 60% of Nigeria’s maize is used for the production of poultry feeds, 25% is used-up by the
food and beverage industry, and the remaining 15% is consumed by households.
In Nigeria, maize production is rain-fed, and the planting season starts in mid-March through mid-June
yearly – (March/April in the South and May/June in the North). The crop matures within three to four
months of planting. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in 2017 put the value of
Nigeria’s maize industry at $6 billion (N2.5trillion). According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation
(FAO), maize is the most important food crop in Sub- Saharan Africa, but for over five years now, there has
been a critical imbalance in the demand and supply of maize in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous country has
seen its maize output decline in recent years owing to the devastating impact of climate change and
intensifying insecurity issues in the country that has forced many farmers to abandon their farmlands as
well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that obstructed the farming supply chain.
Similarly, yield per hectare has remained low and production has failed to match population growth over
the years despite being the first largest grower of the crop in Africa and 11th globally. Nigeria is at present
roiling out about 10.5 million metric tons per annum with a demand of 15 million metric tons, leaving a
supply-demand gap of 4.5 million tons per annum, according to data from the Federal Ministry of
Agriculture. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its 2020 grain report put Nigeria’s
midyear 2020/21 maize production at 9 million tons, a 13 percent decline when compared to 11.5 million
tons forecasted for 2019/2020 maize production.
The rising cost of maize is threatening the livelihood of many poultry farmers and players in the feed value
chain – thus plunging the economy into a deeper crisis. The high prices of maize have instilled fear among
livestock feed producers in the country. The situation of the rising cost of feed forced many poultry farmers
to shut down operations as maize constitutes 70 percent of inputs needed for feed production.
Conclusively, as we join the rest of world to count the impact of maize in the dietary of Nigerians, we want
to urge the Nigerian government to give attention to the standards of farmers. A lot of maize farmers felt
demoralised when the borders were reopened because they had cultivated with a high cost of inputs and
they were confident that they would sell, knowing the borders were closed. But now that the borders are
opened, it has negative implications for farmers.
Also, in spite of the high production in recent years, Nigeria has not met domestic and industrial demands.
We however want to call for a subsidy policy regime for maize farmer in Nigeria. With this policy, we expect
more investment in the maize farming industry and with such investment we don’t expect anything less
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than higher produce, increase in maize production, in order to bridge the gap in both industrial and local