Maize is a world food staple. It was domesticated in Mesoamerica during prehistoric times. In the late 15th century, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries. Maize spread to the rest of the world due to its ability to thrive in diverse climates. Maize and rice tie for the second most widely grown crop in the world (wheat is number one). No other crop produces more grain than maize. Industrialized countries largely use it as livestock feed. In sub-Saharan Africa, maize is the most widely grown crop and is a staple food for an estimated 50% of the population. Out of 53 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 46 grow maize – only Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, St. Helena, Seychelles, Western Sahara, Mayotte and British Indian Ocean Territories do not grow it. Maize production covers the largest land area in Nigeria (7th in the world and 2.4% of the total), followed by Tanzania and South Africa. Top producers are South Africa (9th in the world but only 1.5% of the total), Nigeria and Ethiopia. About 10% of South Africa’s maize is exported. In terms of food security, it is the most important cereal crop in sub-Saharan Africa.
Reference to numbers/statistics are from FAOSTAT 2010 for the year 2008