Nigeria’s wheat imports to climb 4% as local production remains submerged

NIGERIA – Nigeria’s wheat production in marketing year (MY) 2019/20 is forecasted to reach 60,000 metric tons (MT), unchanged from the previous year’s, according to Global Agricultural Information report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

With an increase in consumption of wheat flour-based products, attributable to the country’s population growth of 2.5% annually, wheat imports during the year under review is forecasted to rise by 4% to 5.6 million tonnes.

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Despite Federal government’s intervention in the wheat sub-sector, crop industrialization and backward integration policies to reduce the country’s reliance on importation, it may take the country several years to bridge the huge demand gap.

Reports have it that local production has been neglected over the years, especially by government, in its array of intervention programmes.

Recently the Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria painted a devastating picture of how COVID-19 and uninspiring government policy were destroying wheat production in Nigeria, reports Daily Trust.

Alhaji Salim Mohammed, the national president of the Wheat Farmers Association speaking on the expected output of the crop which harvest was due during the period of total lockdown he said, “Even if there was going to be any production, it may not be more than 30% because the harvesting calendar was not followed judiciously. COVID-19 is going to ravage between 30% to 35% of our expected production output.”

Salim indicated that this season only close to 12, 000 hectares have been cultivated and if calculated by three tonnes per hectare normaly actualized, “You have about 36,000 tonnes and if we can get 248 tonnes with the COVID-19, we are lucky,” he stated.

Salim feels the government has neglected the crop on accounts of promoting rice production more despite wheat products being consumed more compared to rice.

The government has initiated programs such as the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to promote farmers production by financing their operations but the president of the association states that the loans are not issued on favourable terms.

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To this regard he has called for partnership with the government lender and the association to stipulate favourable terms such as amount issued to farmers and suitable time frame given on repayment of the debt in regards to their operations.

“We the associations are the drivers of the commodity development in this country. We have the farmers in our fold, we work with the farmers and we can ask the farmers to go to farm directly.” Salim said

“So there has to be good synergy between the operators at the centre and the farmers at the lower level so that we can have a round table meeting to understand what the major issues are and challenges facing agricultural production in the country,” he concluded.

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