Addressing wheat supply deficit
There are some interventions to boost domestic wheat output and cut the food import bill. It involves resolving issues that hinder the sector’s development, including farmers access to improved seeds. DANIEL ESSIET reports.
In the last years, there have been private sector’s efforts to expand farming and boost investments in wheat.
One of them is the repositioning of wheat as a principal driver of growth, as well as a more integrated structuring of the sector that allows for an improved value chain.
Wheat production is inadequate to meet the demand, especially from millers and other consumers, who require at least 20 million tonnes yearly, according to analysts.
This means Nigeria is not able to meet its wheat requirements and, therefore, must import to fill the gap.
Several projects have been financed which are rural based to develop farmers’ capacity and supply chains.
This is in addition to efforts to attract foreign investors and create opportunities for farmers’ benefit from various forms of aid, such as the provision of quality seeds and other input.
Not only is such support educating more farmers on the latest farming techniques and technologies, it also serves to attract more youths to the sector.
The investors are ensuring that the average yield improved from 10 tonnes per hectare(ha) to 30.
They also support the cultivation of a special variant of wheat that is adapted to the climate.This emphasis is on large-scale wheat farming that utilises the latest machinery to boost domestic output.
With domestic production still under 400,000 tonnes yearly, there have been calls for more investment by the Federal Government for private sector players to invest more.
Olam, for instance, is collaborating with farmers to strengthen the value chain.
Olam and its subsidiary Crown Flour Mill Limited (CFM), have launched a N300 million ($750,000) 10-year project to set up community seed enterprises for farmers to increase their wheat production.
The project would strengthen production in north.
It will trial new heat-tolerant varieties of wheat and improved agronomic practices using a participatory approach that directly engages farmers. It will also engage at least 10 female farmers’ associations to become true drivers of change for their communities by training women to lead community-based seed enterprises. The enterprises will produce and make available high value seed to farmers in their local communities.
Managing Director, CFM, Ashish Pande, said: “To ensure the long-term viability of the wheat sector in Nigeria, it is critical to identify and support the development of high-yielding local wheat varieties. This project will further stimulate the Federal Government’s drive towards the attainment of economic growth, the country’s agricultural research capabilities, employment generation, community development and the economic empowerment of women in Nigeria.”
The wheat value-chain project, the outcome of extensive high-level consultations with key stakeholders, following the successful inaugural Olam Green Land Webinar Series in March, involves Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), and Dr Filippo M. Bassi, Senior Scientist, Durum Wheat Breeder of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
LCRI Principal Research Officer, Dr. Kachalla Kyari Mala, said: “The institute is delighted to be a part of this intervention, as it represents a laudable private sector financial support and contribution to all the work done and other ongoing research endeavours by the LCRI in the area of wheat development.”
The “community-based or village-based seed enterprises” to be employed by Olam on this project is a scalable strategy developed for Ethiopia by ICARDA’s scientists, where it has shown great success. ICARDA has since expanded its application to the river systems of Sudan, Senegal and Mauritania.
Bassi, a recipient of the Olam Prize for Innovation in Food Security in 2017, said: “The selection of female farmer associations as community enterprises is premised on the fact that investing in rural women has proven to yield nearly double the development outcomes than previously done so. Women farmers are conscientious with their use of income, deploying it wisely, re-investing it in innovations and seeking the betterment of the whole community. African women are the true glue that keep the community together.”