NIGERIA – Nigeria’s grains shipment – rice, maize and wheat, has gulped US$2.44 billion from Nigeria importers in 2018 as production remains constant, reports New Telegraph.

The country spent US$1.1billion to import 5.5 million tons of wheat in the period as production remained static at 60,000 tons which constituted 99% of wheat consumed.

Rice imports amounted to three million tons equivalent to 44pc of rice consumed in the country valued at US$1.2 billion, while domestic production rose to 4.78 million tons in 2018.

Similarly, 400,000 tons or four per cent of maize costed the country US$146.8 million despite the 11 million tons produced locally.

Import data from a global trade portal, Index Mundi, revealed that instead of downward reduction in the 2.1 million tons of rice recorded in 2015, the country imported three million tons of the grains as at December, 2018.

The trade portal added that domestic rice consumption had increased to 7.4 million tons in 2018 from 7.1 million tons in 2017.

In a move to alleviate the situation, the Federal Government has moved to attract N250 billion investment in rice production to boost domestic production by establishing an additional 14 rice mills in the country.

Already, 21 large integrated rice mills had started running in the country with a total annual processing capacity of 1.22 million metric tons yearly.

Some of the mills are owned by Dangote, Stallion Group, Olam, Milan, Golden Penny Rice and Wicklow Group, among others.

Nigeria seems to have become a massive market for wheat, serving some flour milling companies such as Flour Mills of Nigeria, Honeywell Flour Mills and Dangote Flour Mills as they prefer to import the grain where they can obtain higher returns.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) projects a 4% increase in Nigeria’s total wheat consumption in 2018-19 from figure to 5.06 million tons in 2018.

According statistics by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s, Nigeria’s domestic demand for maize has hit 15.5 million metric tons.

For the year 2018, Asia and United States accounted for the 400, 000 tons of maize import as noted by the World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE)

The imports made Nigeria to be the eighth largest importer maize in Africa after Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya, Libya and Zimbabwe.