Nigeria sees maize boost despite costs, insecurity

STORY: It's a tough time to be a farmer in northern Nigeria's maize belt.

Those like James Onah face high costs of diesel and fertilizer.

And that's on top of the threat of militants and gunmen who have forced families off their farms.

"Our lives are not really secured in the farms, so it makes us…we are not really safe like we used to be before.''

But despite these challenges, Nigeria says it expects to produce 23 million metric tons of maize this year.

That's a 12% annual increase.

The reason, the maize growers association says, is cheaper credit from the central bank - helping to blunt the higher costs.

"A lot of funds have been advanced to farmers."

Edwin Chigozie Uche, president of the Maize Growers and Processors Association of Nigeria, said commercial banks are not keen to lend to farmers due to the insecurity and higher risk of default.

The central bank initiative is aimed at reducing grain imports which it says are a drain on foreign exchange.

The 23,000 metric ton estimate is still 7,000 short of Nigeria's annual requirement.

Maize, along with rice and wheat, are the most consumed grains in Nigeria.

But with production costs increasing, price are skyrocketing for sellers and consumers, says cereals trader Destiny Chibuzo.

''So our customers they are complaining that the corn is very costly. We don't know what will happen next year."

But back on his farm, Onah says it is the only way.

''I believe it will help us to cover up for the cost of the expenses we did during the farming season. So the current price in the market is not bad, we are happy with it.''

To ensure their security, farmers have been grouping together to form armed patrol groups.

State government have also set up agro-rangers to provide security to those communities that are feeding the nation.