The Transformation of Value Chains in Africa: Evidence from the First Large Survey of Maize Traders in Nigeria


December 4, 2017 - <>, <>, Awa Sanou, Wale Ogunleye, Iredele Ogunbayo, Bolarin T. Omonona

Saweda Liverpool-Tasie, Thomas Reardon, Awa Sanou, Wale Ogunleye, Iredele Ogunbayo, Bolarin T. Omonona, 2018. The Transformation of Value Chains in Africa: Evidence from the First Large Survey of Maize Traders in Nigeria. Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Paper 91. East Lansing: Michigan State University.

Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, and maize is one of its main staples. Most Nigerians eat some maize, half of Nigeria’s population is urban, and about half of Nigeria’s farmers grow maize. Consequently, about 75% of Nigeria’s 160 million people depend on maize traders to supply them maize. However, in the past 20 years after dismantling of parastatals, there has been an under-emphasis in research and policy discussions on the role of such intermediaries. Reardon (2015) calls the intermediaries and processors the “hidden middle,” as it is hidden from research and debate, but forms roughly 40% of cost of food in developing countries – the same as farmers. 

Specifically, despite maize trading’s huge importance to Nigerian food security, there has been very scant attention paid to the structure and conduct of maize trading as a key part of the maize value chain. This is even more striking a gap when one considers that little of the maize consumed by Nigerians is imported making the domestic value chain critically important. Despite significant survey research on maize farming in Nigeria, an exhaustive literature search revealed that in the past 2-3 decades, there has been no large sample survey of Nigerian maize traders. The policymakers’ and researchers’ impressions of traders are largely based on scattered local small sample studies, or on old studies, in the 1960s and 1970s. Yet Nigeria’s food economy has changed in so many ways since then. For instance, rural-urban supply chains have grown enormously: in 1970, 25% of Nigeria was urban; by 2015 it is 50% (Block et al. 2015). 

With Nigerian cities burgeoning, livestock and fish feed sectors now depending on long – and vulnerable - maize supply chains in which traders play a fundamental role, we considered it urgent and imperative to update knowledge on maize traders. It was also essential that we do it with a formal survey, with a substantial sample in the North and South, and avoid only anecdotal discussions from key informants. Our study focuses on traders based in main cities and regional markets in secondary cities. These urban traders source from farms and other traders, assemble bulk, and transport or buy transport services. Our survey was conducted in North and South Nigeria. This was crucial because the North is the main source of maize and both South and North are major consumers of the grains. The sample totaled about 1400 traders, far greater than for any Nigerian trader study, and we would argue, than for any African study in the past 50 years.



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