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Heritage Bank partners CBN to boost wheat production

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Heritage Bank Plc are partnering on a novel but more robust approach to boost local production of wheat and reduce the country’s dependence importation of the commodity. The partnership isbasically toconsummatethe WheatSeed MultiplicationProjectinJos, as part of CBN’s Brown Revolution Initiative, the apex bank’s wheatvaluechainintervention, aimed at addressing the challenges in Wheat value chain. Specifically, as partof the pilot phase of the initiative, HeritageBankhasfinanced thefirst ever large scale rain-fed wheat production in Nigeria.

Speaking at the flag-off ceremonyfor theBrownRevolution Initiative in Jos on Tuesday, the Deputy Governor, CBN, Edward Adamu, stated that the short-term benefit of the initiative is the addition of about 2,000metrictonnes(MT) of high yieldseedvarietytothenational wheat seed stock, which currently stands at 20,000MT.

According to him, this effort has the potential to add about 750,000MT of wheat annually through rain-fed cultivation. He noted that while estimates show that only one per cent or 63,000MT of wheat, out of the five to six million metric tonnes of wheat consumed annually was produced locally, with the Brown Revolution and in partnership with Heritage Bank and others, CBN seeks to eliminate dependence on imported wheat by 60 per cent. In his speech, the MD/CEO of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, frowned atthatthecountry’sincreased wheatimportationbills and affirmed that the strategic partnershipwouldhelpreverse thetrendsandupscaledomestic production in order to close the wide supply gap in the agricultural space.

As part of the bank’s efforts to support the high yield seed variety to national wheat seed stock, Sekibo, represented by the Head, Agricbusiness and Export, Ugonwa Ikegwuonu, explained that Heritage Bank set out to cultivate a total of 1, 000 hectares of farm land at the end of the year, producing at least about five tonnes of wheat seeds per hectare in terms of yield.

“We set out to cultivate a total of 1,000 hectares of farm land but at the end of the day because of time constraints and other challenges, we have been able to cultivate 357 hectares. The crops according to the project manager are doing very well and in a few weeks they will be ripe for harvest. In fact, partof thefarmisalready ripe for harvest.

So, we set out withthispartnershipwithtwo anchors, which we call service providers,” he said. Speaking during his welcomeaddress, theGovernor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, affirmed that Nigeria was on the path of agricultural food sufficiency, adding that with the “Brown Revolution,” the rain-fed wheat would help curtail the $2 billion spent on importation of wheat. He further noted that the target of his administration was to attain zero-importation of wheat, attain wheat sufficiency in the economy and commenceexportationtoraise the foreign reserves. President of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, Salim Muhammad, stated that the association has a good understanding with Heritage Bank and commended the lender for its proactive approach to the rain-fed wheat production in the agriculture value chain.

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