Maize/Corn (Zea Mays) after the Taino word “mahiz” commonly known as corn, is widely cultivated throughout the world and is a large grain plant first domesticated 10,000 years ago.
Maize grows in diverse climates. Sugar-rich varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for human consumption, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed and chemical feedstock. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable or starch.
According to FAO, by 2050, world annual demand for maize, rice and wheat is expected to reach some 3.3 billion tons, or 800 million tons more than 2014’s record combined harvest. Furthermore a study conducted by FAO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that global consumption of cereals will increase by 390 million tons between 2014 and 2024. Toward sustainable cereal production, farming systems need to be reconfigured worldwide for sustainable intensification.
Production in CARICOM Countries
The crop is grown in most territories for domestic consumption. The four main producers of corn in CARICOM are:
- Haiti producing 210,000 metric tons in 2008
- Belize producing 65,273.9 metric tons in 2008
- Jamaica producing 1,891 metric tons in 2008
- Guyana producing 1,025.1 metric tons in 2008
A 2005 study commissioned by the CARICOM Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture entitled “Review of Agricultural Policies: A Case Study of Belize” reported that efficiency and competitiveness were key to maintain market share locally.
The study also highlighted a need to:
- Yield improvements. Both through proven technologies and technical assistance to small farmers
- Identify new foreign markets. The necessity for farmers to collaborate with CARDI and other research institutions to develop and sustain a seed bank
- Encourage commercialization of grain production. High yielding varieties of maize can assist small and medium-sized farmers
- Increase corn by-products
- Improve production. This can be accomplished with research and in extension marketability of sweet corn
Why invest in corn production?
- It is a strategic product for the Caribbean region. Corn is seen as important to improving food security globally.
- There is a growing demand for the product.
- Corn is perfect for crop rotation, particularly when partnered with legumes that can increase the nitrogen in soil for further production.
- It is a hardy crop that can adapt to diverse environmental conditions.
- A Review of Agricultural Policies: A Case Study of Belize
- CARDI’s Cereals and Legumes Activities
- International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
- The Nature of Rising Food Prices in the Eastern Caribbean Grain: World Markets and Trade by USDA, 2016
- Corn Harvest Quality Highlights
- Save and Grow in Practice: Maize, Rice, Wheat (2016). An FAO Publication