Increasing maize productivity – the only solution to address limited supply problems

The wholesale prices of maize have appreciated nearly 10% in recent weeks, forcing end-users including poultry and livestock feed manufacturers to stocking the cereal quite aggressively. The situation is now panic driven and at present the feed manufacturers are focused over stocking maize from Chindwada in Madhya Pradesh, which is the sole major supplier in India at present. The Poultry feed manufacturers generally purchase maize from the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra. But this year the availability in these two states was not enough even during the peak season. Neither the material was of good quality.
Drought in Maharashtra and other regions have significantly affected maize supply in the country and the supply situation is better only in the state of Madhya Pradesh. So in near future chances of maize import have increased.   The country also exports smaller quantities of maize to countries in South Asia, but due to supply crunch these nations are looking for import deals from other global maize suppliers. India’s current production is about 25-26 million tonnes and according to a report by FICCI and Price water house Coopers earlier this year, India has to increase the output by 75% to 45 million tonnes in next couple of years in order to cope up with the growing feed demand.
It may be noted that nearly 15 Million farmers are engaged in cultivation of maize, and as reported by the IARI,this crop generates employment for more than 650 million person-days at farming and its related business ecosystem levels.The IARI also reports that Maize contributes more than 2 per cent to the total value of output from all agricultural crops. The crop is less water demanding than other similar cereals and being a ‘C4’ as well as ‘day-neutral plant’, giving higher yield per hectare in a shorter period and can be grown in any season.
Maize is demand friendly and insulates it against low demand situations considering the multiple utilities of the cereal as a ‘food’, ‘fodder’ and ‘feed’. Due to these unique characteristicsmaize turns out to be a crop suitable for enhancing farmer’s income as well as livelihoods in India. So,  a critical supply situation will not be a comfortable situation for the farming community as well as the Government, because on one hand it will result in shelling out extra dollars for importing and on the other, it will adversely affect the farmers’ livelihood and also result in lower opportunity for enhancing of their income levels. As per the demand estimates, domestic production has to grow with CAGR of 15% in next 4-5 years. World’s maize production stood at roughly 1040 million MT in 2016-17, with US being the leading producer, followed by China, with contributions of38% and23% respectively. India on the other hand contributed roughly 26 MT in 2016-2017 or not more than 2% of world’s production quantity.
Following steps can be undertaken for enhancing maize productivity:

  1. Upgrading services/quality in the value chain such as Seed, Farm mechanization, Research and Development, Irrigation, Crop insurance etc.
  2. Ensuring better facilities for processing / milling, procurement and storage, retailing as to provide higher price realization by farmers.
  3. Promptnessin   the   adoptionof technology in terms of hybridization, advancements in genomics and molecular breeding, next generation mutation techniques. Adoption of RNAi technology for insect resistance, virus resistance, aflatoxin resistance can also be considered.
  4. Focus to be seriously given over promotion of FPOs. Seed production clusters inspecific regions especially in Telangana, could emerge as formal institution like Seed Producers’ Companies (SPCs) / Seed Producers’ organizations (SPOs).
  5. Need to create cold storages for Maize, and establishment of Maize value added units. Even creating modern storage structures like Maize silos can be a good option. This step will be beneficial in creation of a better storage infrastructure – necessary for providing higher returns to the farming community.
  6. Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Bihar account for nearly66% of total production of India and the state of Bihar has observed significant improvement in production in last 10 years. Therefore systematic plans should be developed state-wise(i.e. the major producing states to be given better irrigation/R&Dfacilities or more production linked incentives to be given in these states etc.)

It is pathetic to mention that our productivity remains much lower than the globally set standards. India’s productivity is nearly half the global yield standards at present. The global feed industry is growing at a CAGR of6-7% while in India the feed industry grows at CAGR of 9%. Hence it becomes crucial for the government of India to enable maize growers to exploit this untapped opportunity. As mentioned earlier our country would require approximately 45 MT of Maizeby the year 2022. So for the policy makers, need of the hour is to prioritize various measures (few of these have been suggested in previous paragraph) necessary to increase maize production to the desired level.
by Abhijeet Banerjee, Religare Commodities