Last Friday’s announcement by Indian Government that it was banning wheat export with immediate effect as part of measures to address food security problems occasioned by the war in Ukraine puts the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Brown Revolution programme on the spotlight, writes TONY CHUKWUNYEM
At the unveiling of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s wheat value chain intervention initiative called the “Nigerian Brown Revolution,” in Plateau State on November 9, last year, governor of the apex bank, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said the programme would slash the importation of the valuable commodity by 60 per cent and also save the country $2 billion annually in foreign exchange. He also disclosed that the initiative, which will be implemented in 15 states of the Federation for a start, would benefit over 150,000 farmers.
Emefiele, who was represented at the event by CBN Deputy Governor, Corporate Services Directorate, Mr. Edward Adamu, also said that the programme, which was aimed at addressing the impact of wheat importation on foreign exchange, would be implemented on about 180,000 hectares of land. He noted that, over the years, low-yielding seed varieties and poor agronomic practices had hampered successful cultivation of wheat in Nigeria.
He explained that in order to change the situation and boost domestic production to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country, CBN decided to add wheat to the list of focal commodities to be supported under the apex bank’s agricultural intervention programmes.
The CBN governor said: “Wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice. It is estimated that the country only produces about one per cent (63,000 metric tonnes) of the five to six million metric tonnes of the commodity consumed annually in Nigeria. This enormous demand-supply gap is bridged with over $2 billion spent annually on wheat importation.
This has made wheat the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill. “Given the high growth rate of the country’s population and the demographic structure, the demand for wheat is projected to continue to rise. This can only intensify pressure on the country’s reserves unless we take a decisive step to grow wheat locally.”
Emefiele further stated that CBN recognised that improved seed varieties were the bedrock of any crop production process, adding that this informed why the banking industry regulator acquired high yielding varieties from Mexico with potential average yield per hectare of five to seven metric tonnes as against a range of 0.8-1.8 metric tonnes yield per hectare of those varieties previously cultivated. As he put it, “improved seeds varieties is the bedrock of any crop production process.
We have made some progress in this regard with the acquisition of high yielding varieties from Mexico with a potential average yield per hectare of five to seven metric tons as against a range of 0.8-1.8 metric tonnes yield per hectare of those varieties previously cultivated.
The two-pronged approach of seed multiplication and grains production which we have adopted is expected to sustain the propagation of seeds and guarantee the availability of high-yielding seeds to farmers.”
According to him, the Brown Revolution was an offshoot of CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), which has recorded successes in supporting smallholder farmers to increase the cultivation of different commodities across the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Also speaking at the unveiling of the Brown Revolution initiative, which also marked the launch of the apex bank’s first ever rain-fed wheat programme, President Muhammadu, who was represented by the Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Simon Lalong, said that food security could not be attained if farmers are not supported with the right seedlings, agriculture materials and other resources. Buhari said:
“Nigeria is on the path to actualizing sustainability in the production of rice, maize, cassava, soybean, groundnut, oil palm, cocoa and we are gathered here today because of a breakthrough in wheat cultivation in Nigeria. Through the various efforts of this administration in the agric value chain, we expect bountiful harvest in commodities like maize.
“Wheat cultivation, similar to rice, has the capacity to thrive in Nigeria due to the tropical climatic conditions. Currently, wheat is cultivated in many Northern states, particularly in the dry season, due to the high heat tolerance of the seed utilised by farmers.”
The president added: “The ABP is a good mechanism to give farmers ready market and provide jobs along the agricultural value chain. The benefits of the agricultural revolution cannot be over-emphasised. We’re almost attaining sufficiency in cassava, rice and others, and wheat is being added to the list. “One legacy this administration desires to bequeath before leaving office is zero importation of wheat.
To that effect, we will work with all stakeholders to ensure this objective is achieved in the most impactful way for the Nigerian economy. “The Federal Government is committed to the continued support for the agricultural sector to ensure the sustainability of food security efforts, contribute to foreign reserve accretion and ultimately support the growth of the Nigerian economy.
The private sector is also encouraged to key into agricultural financing initiatives provided by CBN and other government agencies.” Disbursements
Unsurprisingly, at CBN’s
Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting held later in November, Emefiele gave updates on the Brown Revolution initiative. He said: “The bank also disbursed the sum of N41.2 billion for the commencement of the brown revolution, a large-scale wheat programme to wean us off imports by 35 per cent in the first year.”
Analysts noted that it was remarkable that CBN had designed and was already implementing the Brown Revolution programme well before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, this year, thus sparking a global economic crisis.
Specifically, with Russia and Ukraine accounting for 30 per cent of global wheat exports and supplying millions of tons of wheat to food import-dependent developing countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), South Asia, and sub- Saharan Africa, the conflict between both nations led to a surge in the price of the valuable food commodity.
But there was more negative news for the global economy last Friday, when India, on the grounds that its food security was under threat, restricted wheat exports that the world was counting on to alleviate supply constraints. In a notification dated May 13, India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade said exports would still be allowed to countries that require wheat for food security needs and based on the requests of their governments, adding that all other new shipments will be banned with immediate effect.
As Bloomberg reported at the weekend, the decision to halt wheat exports highlights India’s concerns about high inflation and adds to a spate of food protectionism since the Ukraine war started.
The news agency noted that since the conflict began, sending agriculture prices surging, governments around the world have been seeking to ensure local food supplies with.
For instance, Indonesia has halted palm oil exports, while Serbia and Kazakhstan imposed quotas on grain shipments. It quoted a grains analyst at Melbourne-based Thomas Elder Markets, Andrew Whitelaw, as saying: “We now have an environment with another supplier removed from contention in global trade flows. The world is starting to get very short of wheat.”
Whitelaw pointed out that at present, the US winter wheat is in poor condition, France’s supplies are drying out and Ukraine’s exports are stymied. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that a recordshattering heat wave had damaged wheat yields across India, prompting the government to consider export restrictions. The food ministry had said it didn’t see a need to control exports, even as the government cut estimates for India’s wheat production.
Although it might be too early to tell whether CBN would be able to meet its objective for introducing the Brown Revolution programme – weaning the nation off wheat imports by 35 per cent in the first year – the consensus among analysts is that the apex bank and its management should be commended for having the foresight to design a scheme that is likely to play a key role in helping to conserve the nation‘s external reserves.