The Federal Government has vowed to end the continuous importation of wheat to boost its local production and encourage farmers.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, who spoke at a conference on Wheat held in Abuja, said the country currently produced high-quality wheat.
The minister, represented by the Director of Agribusiness and Marketing, Dr. Muyiwa Azeez, said the Flour Milling Association of Nigeria, had submitted a written commitment to the ministry, stating that it would buy all the wheat produced by wheat farmers.
Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Bagudu said certain agronomic practices, which initially reduced wheat yield per hectare, had been addressed by research institutes across the country. He listed some of the states that had improved their wheat production as Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe, Niger and Plateau, among others.
Bagudu noted that trade wars were major factors behind the inability of Nigeria and Africa to achieve sufficiency in wheat production. He called for proper research to enable policy makers make informed decisions on how to boost wheat production.
“Last year, only five states recorded significant increase in wheat production, but as a result of mobilisation, about 11 states have improved inputs and increased yields. If we have no research that informs policy makers about the totality of support that is given in countries with whom we are competing and from whom we are importing, we are likely to continue penalising our wheat value chain. African wheat is competitive, but farmers need support,’’ he said.
Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, Mohammed Monguno, assured farmers that the National Assembly would encourage policies that boost the production of wheat and other agricultural produce in the country.
African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, said wheat production could inject $13.4 billion into the Nigerian economy. He was represented by the Director of Agriculture in the bank, Dr Chiji Ojukwu.
The AfDB, through its agricultural programmes, he said, was planning to increase the production of wheat from 2.5 tonnes to 7.0 tonnes per hectare.
He noted that the Support to Agriculture Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa (SARD-SC) project, a four-year programme, was funded by the AfDB with $63 million.
SARD-SC, Africa Wheat Project Co-ordinator, Dr Solomon Assefa, said the project was aimed at promoting food security and nutrition in Africa, enhancing the economic growth of 12 African countries, while contributing to their poverty reduction.
According to him, wheat consumption in Africa has increased significantly with the cost of importation rising close to $15 billion.
Assefa, however, said some of the challenges facing wheat production included environmental conditions, technology, policies and marketing.
He said Nigeria had increased its wheat production from 70,000 tonnes in 2012 to 400,000 tonnes last year.
However, Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria President, Mr Salim Mohammed, regretted that farmers had no access to improved seeds and modern farming equipment to boost production.
He, therefore, called on government at all levels to provide farm inputs that would encourage local production of wheat in the country.
By: Okwy Iroegbu-Chikezie – thenationonline.net