Whether one calls it maize or corn, it’s no secret that this cereal crop is now in season and farmers and petty traders are making fortunes with it.
Some pretty traders have changed their regular businesses to preparing roasted corn snacks, which could be taken as in-between meals snacks or even like a full meal with local pear, coconut, kernel or even butter to go with.
Presently in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and as well as other major cities, people of different classes are seen as they park their cars by roadsides to patronise corn sellers who are making brisk business. One would be amazed to see the number of cars veering off the road as they suddenly sight a corn seller.
These corn-sellers, especially in the FCT and Lagos are mostly women, but you can find some young men also involved in the business of selling the roasted corn.
Investigation carried out by The Daily Times revealed that dealers usually smile home each evening, having spent the day selling their corn for anything from N70 to N100, depending on the size of the corn.
According to Mama Onome, who operates in Central Area of Abuja, roasting maize is a seasonal trade that comes with the rain. Commenting on what attracted her to the business, she said: “I need to sell roasted corn to raise money for my other businesses.
I make close to N30,000 a month. Corn is a wonder crop; in fact, no part of it is wasted. I sell both cooked and roasted, and I have never regretted coming into the business.
“I buy a full bag of corn with the husk between N5, 000 to N10, 000 and by the time I remove the husk and roast, I make between N30, 000 and N50,000.
I sell the corn according to their sizes; the bigger the corn, the higher the price. In some bags, one could be fortunate to find 50 big corns, which sells between N100 and N200 each depending on a customer’s bargaining power; that means N5, 000 to N10, 000, which is almost the cover price of a bag.
“I sell three bags in a week; so, the returns is worth the while. For within this season, I can boast of having made enough to enable me go into other petty trade, when the rains are over,” she revealed.
For Chika Azuka, the business is good now there is corn in abundance. Giving her experience, she disclosed that she has two locations for both boiled and roasted corn.
According to her, she made provisions for customers to make their choice.
She said, “I cannot really tell whether the roasted or boiled corn brings in more money. For all I know is that the cooked one finishes faster than the roasted.
In fact, I spend less time preparing it and I also try to always finish each pot in the day, so that, the cobs do not taste sour the next day.
But the roasted cobs sell at any time even into late evenings; so far there are buyers.
“Selling corn brings quick and huge returns. I sometimes make up to N25, 000 from the N5, 000 bag of corn I buy.
If in a nice location, where there is a lot of human traffic, a bag can bring in the money for two or three others, depending on sizes of the cobs in the bag.
I make a daily contribution of N3, 000 from my sales outside the overall profit. It is a magic crop that enriches sellers.”
What does a newcomer need to come into the business?
Chika Azuka disclosed that the business requires as little as N5, 000 to begin.
“You do not need a huge capital to start, just get high portable grill to roast the corn and, of course a regular supply of charcoal.
But if one wants to go into cooking it, then a tripod stand, charcoal and clean water are the necessary things required. In case, you want to be on a busy road, then be prepared to regularly pay local government officials operational charges.
“It costs less to begin; all I have listed are below N10,000. So, it is not a business that involves huge capital, but you just need a good location for people to see the cobs and patronise you,” he added.
On his part, Mr. Augustine Shior, whose wife sells roasted corn, while he goes to farm to harvest the produce, said a lot of people depend on corn food, especially now that it is in season.
“As early as 6am customers come to me, so that we can go to my farm to harvest corn. It is never enough and because of the limited supply, we leave the pricing to individual’s ability to bargain. Though my farm is large, I still depend on farmers from the neighbouring towns on the outskirt for supply.
“Either cooked, roasted or in powder, corn sells at anytime. I bought my first car with the money made from selling corn,” he added.
While some are in the business of procuring the produce, others are busy preparing it as snacks to be eaten at anytime.
Also, an elderly woman simply identified as Mama Divine, said that she is training her three children from the business.
Mama Divine, a widow, also admitted that patronage has increased.
“Some of us have been in this business of roasting corn for years. Some of us even trained our children and sustain our families through this business.
I am not surprised the kind of cars we see here daily because it has always been like that since I joined others here.
“You know that things are very hard now and since you can satisfy the hunger with two medium size corns costing just N200 or even less depending on the size, many come here to patronise us.
Apart from the hunger, they also said that corn is good and nutritious for their health,” she stated
It is the same business boom to the mobile cooked corn vendors traversing the length and breadth of the FCT to supply the ever-willing consumers at very affordable prices.
In Lagos, the country’s commercial nerve centre, the story is not diferent as many people, especially women, have now turned to selling of corn for survival.
For instance, Mama Rukayat travels from Igando area of Lagos State to Ifo in Ogun State to buy fresh corns which she boils and roasts for sale.
According to her, a sack of corn from Ifo is sold for N6, 000 and she makes profits of an average of N2, 700 after removing the cost of transportation.
“Corn business is a good business and someone like me always looks forward to rainy season. What I do is that around afternoon, I boil the corns for sale and evening and night, I roast but boiled corn moves faster than the roasted one”, she added.
On why she travels such a distance to buy the corn, she said it is because Ifo is a rural area and corns are directly from the farm which makes it fresh and customers prefer fresh corn because of the sweet taste.
“Most of the corns being sold in Lagos are not fresh and it is the aroma of the fresh ones that draws customers to us”, she said.