Cereal Crop Production In Nigeria – Prospect & Challenges In The Last 5 Years, The Roles Of Government, Women & Youth – By Dr. Tunde Arosanyin




cereal crops are grains usually cultivated farm land for food, cash and livestock feed. In Nigeria, major cereal crops cultivated are Maize, Rice, Sorghum, Millet and Wheat. The country is endowed with a land mass of 923,000m sq km of which 45% is arable for cereal, tree crop and tuber crop farming. Other climatic features such as annual rainfall are average of 1,150mm; 8 hours sunshine per day, humidity and temperature of 210c were very favorable to cereal production.


0.2          PREAMBLE – Before I expatiate on Nigeria, I will briefly dwell on the continent of Africa in cereal production. Africa with its vast land area covering 3 billion ha has 1.3 billion ha of agricultural land out of which only 252 million ha (19.36%) is arable (FAO 2012). Africa is the centre of origin and also a major producer of several cereals. Like sorghum, pearl and finger millet, teff, rice, maize and wheat.

Agriculture is the engine for growth in Africa, with subsistence agriculture practiced by majority small holder farmers, yield gaps are high and poor soils amongst other constraints add to the difficulties for sustainable farming and incomes. Cereals like Sorghum, millet, wheat, maize and rice are major staple foods of the most population. These cereals are grown over an area of 98.6m ha producing 162m tons. Please see Table 1.


Maize 34,075,972 70,076,591
Millet 19,998,008 16,008,838
Rice (paddy) 11,206,813 28,798,202
Sorghum 23,142,595 23,350,064
Wheat 10,224,958 24,704,201
Total 98,226,080 162,422,507

Source FAO report 2013.


Cereal production in Nigeria has undergone a lot of transformation and evolution in the last five years for the purpose of this presentation, my focus will be on 2010-2015.

MAIZE: is a major food crop grown in diverse agro ecological zones and farming systems and consumed by people with varying food preferences and socio-economic backgrounds in Nigeria. The crop is grown mainly in North East, North West and North Central of Nigeria and grown sparsely in South West, South East and South South of Nigeria. The central role of maize as a staple food is comparable to what rice is in Asia. Maize accounts for almost half of the calories and protein consumed in Nigeria and one-fifth of calories and protein consumed in West Africa.

Maize occupies more than 1.5 million ha in Nigeria with an average yield of 1.5t – 2.0t per hectare under rain fed program. Considering the low average yield that are still pervasive in farmers fields, meeting the projected increase demand for maize grain in Nigeria present a challenge.


2011 1,501,282 3,002,564
2012 1,550,100 3,100,200
2013 1,620,410 3,564,902
2014 1,580,300 3,318,630
2015 1,345,880 2,691,760

Bureau of Statistic – Nigeria

From the above table there was an increase in production from 2010 both in hectares cultivated by the farmers and an average increase in yield of 2.1 ton per hectare. This is as a result of the GES – Growth Enhancement Scheme and E-wallet-Electronic Wallet by the Federal Government of Nigeria through which input such as fertilizer and seed are distributed to small farm holders at 50% subsidy. The Federal Government bears 25% while the state Government bears 25% of the price subsidy respectively. Each farmer now paid half of the price of farm input, which accounted for gradual increase until year 2015 when the subsidy scheme was suspended by the present government in Nigeria.

RICE: has become a highly strategic and priority commodity for food security in Nigeria. Consumption is growing faster than that of any other major staple in the country because of population increase, rapid urbanization and change in dietary intake. Although local rice production increased rapidly after the food crisis of 2008-2009, a key problem facing the rice sector in Nigeria is that local production has never caught up with demand. The country therefore continues to rely on importation to meet its increasing demand for rice.

However recently, in 2016, the Government of Nigeria has restricted rice importation in order to encourage local production, one major problem is the smuggling practices of traders.

Another major problem is the processing procedure that requires improvement to eliminate pebbles and stone in packaged local rice.





2011 10.6 million 28.8 million 18.2 million
2012 11.2 million 29.5 million 18.3 million
2013 11.8 million 31.6 million 19.8 million
2014 11.9 million 32.4 million 20.5 million
2015 13.8 million 33.5 million 19.7 million

Source – National Cereal Research Institute

SORGHUM: is the second most important cereal crop in Nigeria after maize with about 21% of total cereal area followed by millet which is about 14.2% of total cereal land coverage. The demand in sorghum and millet in Nigeria over the last twenty years reflected in the trend for increasing area under cultivation. Unfortunately however, crop productivity has not kept pace with increasing demand, due mainly to a lag in crop improvement efforts in sorghum and millet, relative to other cereals. Other factors are extreme environmental conditions, resource constrained and low farming input system.

Furthermore, dry land environment, climate change and variability, land degradation, poor research work and weak national institutions are other militating factors. Despite these factors there is a strong case for stepping up the efforts towards development of agronomic management of sorghum and millet in Nigeria.


There are many challenges faced by cereal farmers and farmers’ organizations in Nigeria as listed below:

  • Government bureaucracy and in bottleneck in recognizing farmers organization.
  • Non availability of farm input such as herbicide, insecticide, seed and fertilizer at the appropriate time.
  • Low availability of traction for land preparation.
  • Poor extension services to members.
  • Inadequate window for loan and finance.
  • Unstable market price for farm produce.


Although government policies has been unstable in the last ten years generally in Agricultural programs, however it is worthy to mention some of the programs put in place to support cereal farming in Nigeria over the years.

  • GES, E-wallet accessing input to farmers through their telephone at 50% subsidy – 2010 – 2014. ATA – Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
  • Counterpart funding on FADAMA III program for rice, maize and sorghum.
  • International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is adequately supported by Nigerian government in the areas of sorghum, millet and rice research.
  • HOPE project – (Harnessing Opportunities for Productivity Enhancements) funded by Bill-Melinda Gates Foundation in partnership with the Nigerian government for cereal crops.
  • Sorghum Transformation Value Chain (STVC) supported by Nigeria Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
  • USAID, in partnership with West Africa Agricultural Productivity Project (WAAPP, CORAF, WECARD and CGIAR) is getting support from the government to improve on cereal crop farming in Nigeria.


The platform and member federation has achieved a lot over the years through regional meetings and information sharing in the cereal sector. Other key initiatives include the under listed but not limited to the under mentioned:-

  • Regional sharing of research work to improve productivity.
  • Robust market of produce through ECOWAS free trade movement of commodities.
  • Problems shared are problems solved as in the case of worm attack on maize in 2016 in central and North of Nigeria warehoused by the federation.
  • Syndicated fund sourcing for research work through regional cooperation.
  • Promotion of local production against importation from other regions like Asia and Europe.


The roles and activities of women and youth in the Agricultural sector are enormous and in the cereal sector is fundamental to the success recorded in that sector in Nigeria.

  • They both account for over 60% of the labour used in cereal production on farmland in Nigeria. Such labour includes land preparation, planting, fertilizer application, herbicide application.
  • Cooperative movements are better coordinated by the youth and women in cereal production. Through cooperative formation, they easily access credit and farm input.
  • Harvesting and Processing – Women and youth plays a critical role in harvesting and processing of cereal crops in Nigeria, this role has led to increase in production and an improvement in expanding the value-chain.
  • Apart from constituting a major source of labour on the farm, many women and youth are small farm holders of cereal, constituting to direct production increase over the last ten years in Nigeria.
  • Capacity development through train the trainee is better coordinated by women and youth in the cereal sector.


The world is a global village, therefore the role and possible framework of farmers’ organization at a regional level to take up the challenges of the cereal sector cannot be over emphasized. A regional collaboration will lead to improved production through regional research information sharing. Other benefits of regional achievements through consultation framework of farmers’ organization are;

  • Guaranteed quality of farm input at less price by bulk sourcing.
  • Pressure group on government and regional body like ECOWAS for farmers benefit.
  • Guaranteed market through regional commodity exchange market within the sub-region.
  • Improved research findings for exchange within the region to improve yield and agronomic practices.
  • Fund sourcing for on lending to members is better achieved through regional collaboration – AFDB, Bill-Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Sasakawa Global 2000.

10.0          CONCLUSION

The fact remain that West Africa plays a critical role in cereal production in the world with small farm holders who are confronted with poor yield per hectare in comparison with yield from Asia, Europe and America. This low yield occasioned by many factors such as poor soil, poor seed, high cost of farm input, climate change, low credit, unstable market price, inadequate extension services leading to low income to farmers and poverty.

It is only through a formidable regional consultation framework of farmers’ organization that the challenges of the farmers can be surmounted. Until these challenges of cereal production are overcome, that the sector can achieve the desired goal of improving the quality of life of members through increase income.

Thank you for your kind attention.


The author ibasam


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