Jesse Osiobe, chief executive officer (CEO) of agric-tech company Farmkart Foods, says there is an ongoing maize pandemic in Nigeria.
He said this pandemic driven by the decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to place a forex restriction on maize import will drive up prices across the entire sector.
Speaking with Ogechi Ekeanyanwu on TheCable Live Interview, Osiobe said one way to protect farmers from the COVID-19 pandemic and other crises like the recent swine flu is to make data-driven policies.
He added that the maize pandemic in the country will affect a lot of things in the agriculture sector in 2020 and 2021, except something is done to save the day.
“There are a lot of issues going on currently, for instance, there is maize pandemic already, right now,” he said.
“The federal government is placing a ban on FX (foreign exchange) for maize. Meaning that if you want to get maize from outside (the country), you have to source FX by yourself, not from the CBN anymore.
“When you do that, everything goes crazy. Maize is one of the most used item in Nigeria. It is used to make cornflakes, to make poultry feeds, it is used to make a lot of things.
“It affects across board that is why you see chicken will go up, eggs will go up, lots of prices, your cornflakes will go up, anything that has to do with maize will go up.
“So the point is the CBN has done a ban on that so that they can enable local players in this space. But the point is that local players cannot meet the demand for our own local consumptions. So how is that going to happen, you have to enable people to go into the farm so that that shock we are going to receive at the first instance will be cushioned a bit.
“I’m not saying that those policies are not helpful, the point is, it has to go pari passu to make sure that it doesn’t affect the local consumption of people in the country because if there is no maize, meaning that we would all struggle for what available and when we struggle for what is available, we begin pricing wars.”
He said “to avoid shocks, I’m not saying that the government is everything, the government has the role to direct how these things move so that it helps everyone in this space”.
Osiobe, who has been running the agri-tech company for almost five years, said his team has never gotten funding from the government.
He said many farmers have also not got government funding — in loan or grant.
“Honestly, we have never gotten any funding from the government. Not because we have not tried, we have tried but peradventure, we were not found worthy, we have been through everything.
“I can mention about 50 of my friends who have never gotten anything, I can mention a few of my friends who say they have applied for N25 million and they got N2 million naira.
“So I’m not saying it’s not there, but the point is who are the people, who are these farmers, who are the real farmers accessing these palliatives, who are the people accessing these resources available?
“Are they real or are they just, making a statement for people to just understand that they are doing something. So for me, I’m saying, yes, those things are good, we want to hear them, but let them go through the impact check.
“Let them see how far they’ve gone doing the right thing, are people truly receiving this funding, how are they measuring up in their implementation.”
Farmkart is an agric-tech platform where people “invest in livestock farming to increase local food production, support farmers, and get returns on their investment”.