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1.1 Background to the study

Maize is a cereal crop grown in various agro-ecological zones, as a single crop or in mixed cropping. It is the third most important cereal in the world, next to rice and wheat and with highest production potential among the cereals (Prathyushaet al., 2013). It is the most heavily cultivated cereal crop globally, and one of the main cereals crops of West Africa and the most important cereal food in Nigeria (Onuket al., 2010). Maize is high yielding, easy to process, readily digested, and cheaper than other cereals (Valencia J.A. et al, 1999). It is also a versatile crop; growing across a range of agro ecological zones (Valencia J.A. et al., 1999). Every part of the maize plant has economic value: the grain, leaves, stalk, tassel, and cob can all be used to produce a large variety of food and non-food products (IITA, 2009).

Nigerians consume maize as a starch in a wide variety of porridges, pastes, grits, and beer. Green maize (fresh on the cob) is eaten raw, baked, roasted or boiled; playing an important role in filling the hunger gap after the dry season (IITA, 2009). The crop has established itself as a very significant component of the farming system and determines the cropping pattern of the predominately peasant farmers, especially in the Northern states (Ahmed, 1996). Research shows that Nigeria is the tenth largest producer of maize in the world, and the largest maize producer in Africa, followed by South Africa. While maize is grown in the entirety of the country (both yellow and white varieties), the north central region is the main producing area. (Oyelade and Awanane, 2013). Maize in Nigeria is usually intercropped, with yam, cassava, guinea corn, rice, cowpea, groundnut, and soybeans. (Oyelade and Awanane, 2013).

1.2 Problem Statement

The importance of agriculture and cereal crop to the Nigerian economy cannot be over emphasized. Fabunmi and Agbonlahor (2012), reported that agriculture is the single largest contributor to the well-being of the rural poor in Nigeria, sustaining about 86 percent of rural households in the country and a major source of domestic food consumed, contributing about 46 percent to the gross domestic product of the economy with the main staple food produced in large quantities which include maize, sorghum, rice, millet, et cetra. Maize is one of the most important cereal crops in Nigeria where over 150 million people consume an average of 43 kilogrames per year (Oyelade and Awanane, 2013). Maize consumption is widespread across the country and among households of different wealth (Cadoni and Angelucci, 2013). Among different income generating crops, maize is an important cash crop to smallholder farmers which constitute a major source of calories for the poorer proportion of consumers, who cannot afford more expensive foods such as bread, milk or meat (Oyelade and Awanane, 2013).

Given the importance of maize to individual household, industries and the economy as a whole, research has shown that it has not been produced to meet the level of food and industrial needs of the country. Also yields have increased only marginally over the last two decades, where most of the increase in production has come from expansion in the area harvested rather than from increases in yield (FARA, 2009). This depicted a short fall in the overall production and given that maize production, apart from its role in improving food security, is a source of employment and income for farmers and other entrepreneurs, there is therefore the need to increase productivity so as to meet up with the increase in the demand for the crop. Though there are many literatures on maize production, there is also the need to update the research and findings on the crop so as to sustained growth and development of the economy.

Therefore, this study intends to provide answers to the following research questions:

i. What are the socio-economic characteristics of maize farmers in the study area?

ii. How profitable is maize production in the study area?

iii. What are the technical, allocative and economic efficiencies of maize production in the study area?

iv. What are the determinants of technical, allocative and economic efficiencies in maize production in the study area?

v. What are the constraints associated with maize production in the study area?

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