Amid challenges being faced by Nigerian farmers, researchers and industrialists on quality seeds access, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disclosed that it is intervening in the country’s wheat sector with 13,000 metric tonnes seeds for local farmers. The move, according to the apex bank, became imperative to bail Nigerian farmers out of the challenge.
CBN said that it facilitated the importation of about 13,000 metric tonnes of improved and heat-tolerant wheat seeds into the country to boost food production at a period insecurity is posing risk to food system. According to the country’s banking regulator, it realised the importance of wheat to food security as it will move the country forward in food sufficiency, adding that it was the reason bank’s focus on its value chain for 2021/2022 dry season planting. Farmers, researchers and industrialists have constantly faced production impediments, including poor quality of inputs and inadequate infrastructure. Based on this, CBN decided to import the 13,000MT seeds to cushion their plights and also curtail the huge foreign exchange (forex) spending on seeds by flour millers, which is seen as being responsible for hike in the prices of foodstuff in the country.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s data shows Nigeria produces about 60,000 metric tonnes and yearly demand stands at between 4.5 and 5.0 million tonnes. However, to change the gloomy production data and decelerate the pressure on the economy, CBN reiterated its resolve to face challenges in wheat production by making inputs available to farmers, especially with the 13,000MT seeds availability.
The CBN Director, Development Finance Department, Philip Yila Yusuf, who disclosed this, said the country produced less than five per cent of the yearly needs, putting pressure on foreign exchange as over 90 per cent of wheat consumed locally is imported. Yusuf had said: “CBN plans to address key problems in the value chain through financing massive production of wheat in Nigeria, and seeks to facilitate sustained availability of high yield seed varieties incountry and improve general productivity. “Wheat is the second highest contributor to Nigeria’s food import bill, mounting pressure on foreign reserves,” he lamented. He added that over $2 billion was spent yearly on the importation of over 5.0 million metric tonnes of wheat. Furthermore, he estimated that only 63,000MT of wheat, out of the five to six million MT consumed annually is produced locally, noting that the CBN intervention became critical due to its high demand in Nigeria and prevailing shortages.
‘’CBN plans to address key problems in the value chain through financing massive production of wheat in Nigeria, and seeks to facilitate sustained availability of high yield seed varieties in-country and improve general productivity.’’ Also speaking, a former Director-General of the Lake Chad Research Institute and consultant to CBN on wheat seed multiplication, Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, explained that the apex bank had been involved in some crucial steps to rev up production in the country’s wheat sector, after the successes in rice and maize sectors. He explained that the bank had facilitated importation of about 13,000 metric tonnes of improved and heat-tolerant wheat seeds, which were being multiplied in Jos, Plateau State and other locations.
The CBN consultant disclosed that to maximise its production in the country, marginal areas for wheat production would be ex-plored in the dry season farming. Olabanji explained that about 13 states were suitable for growing wheat in Nigeria, but that insecurity had drastically reduced their capacity. However, he added, frontiers where trial plots would be experimented in the 2021/2022 dry season include Niger, Kogi, Kwara, Nassarawa, Benue and Oyo States. To him, the new frontiers will expand the capacity of the country to boost wheat production. Again, he pointed out that productivity per hectare might be lower in the new frontiers compared to the existing wheatproducing belts. Trial hectares, he added, would be planted and maintained by the Lake Chad Research Institute, wheat farmers and flour millers, and this is expected to reduce importation of wheat.
While speaking on the challenges in the country’s wheat sector, the President of WFAN, Salim Muhammad, rued that Nigeria spent over $4.2 billion yearly on importation of wheat to meet its local demand of over 4.7 million metric tonnes, yet the country is blessed with both human and material resources to meet the demand and export.