Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has said the Federal Government wouldn’t normally allow massive importation of maize by Olam Group next year.
Although the Minister stated that maize had not been on the nation’s import ban prhibition list, he charged the business to work out how exactly to grow the produce locally through backward integration, just how it had done with rice production.
Talking with newsmen in his office, the Minister explained “Olam has gone right into a very large poultry business plus they ordered maize because maize is not barred yet. We haven’t really banned any such thing yet, not rice; you are able to bring in rice as long as it passed through the ports and you pay the tax and levies. It’s the smuggling of rice that people don’t want.
“Olam earned the maize and farmers have been complaining. I have met with them. I know they brought in the maize because they had challenges purchasing local maize but I will inform them, next year we won’t allow you do this. Develop an out growers programme like you’ve done for rice and let Nigerian farmers grow for you personally.
He identified the activities of middlemen, whom he so-called, hoard grains and made the prices prohibitive, as one of the main challenges faced in the sector.
“One of the problems that we are facing is hoarding by middlemen. I understand in many warehouses in places like Funtua, Bokkos and Dawano market in Kano, huge warehouses are loaded with grains by some middlemen who believe that these were waiting for the purchase price to rise to the sky before they are able to sell. Therefore , the price of maize rose from N85, 000 per tonne to N135, 000. And poultry farmers were losing all their chickens; I keep poultry too, it has affected me.
“So, people started complaining but then you couldn’t persuade the farmer to put the maize in the market”, Ogbeh lamented.
Meanwhile, Commercial farmers had called on the Federal Government to probe Nigeria Customs Service and other agencies at the seaport over the so-called import of seven ship-loads of maize from India by Olam Group.
They described the importation by the leading manufacturing, trading and importation chain as an enormous threat to the nation’s quest for food self-sufficiency, and urged it to bring those involved to book.