By Chris Ochayi
The Federal Government has concluded plans to stop the importation of wheat into the country to create markets for farmers involved in the production of the grain.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina made this known during the inaugural meeting of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group, NAG, weekend in Abuja said Nigeria would meet 68% wheat needs by 2015.
He said the efforts of government towards encouraging the substitution of wheat with high quality cassava flour is already yielding positive results as the wheat imports to Nigeria declined from an all-time high of 4,051,000 MT in 2010 to 3,700,000 MT in 2012.
“As we implement accelerated cassava flour production, with the installation of the industrial scale cassava flour plants, expand cassava production and deploy hundreds of compact modular milling systems, Nigeria’s dependency on imported wheat will decline even further”
Dr. Adesina said the government is looking into the local production of wheat in the Northern part of Nigeria as he informed members of the group that the Lake Chad Research Institute of Nigeria has released new high yielding tropical and heat tolerant wheat varieties that can yield up to 6 tons per hectare. This, according to him, is about four times the yield of temperate wheat varieties used in Nigeria during the effort to produce wheat in the 1980s.
He further explained that with the tropical wheat varieties that are presently available in the country and at the high yields being obtained, he held that it is profitable and economically-viable to produce wheat in Nigeria.
The Minister explained that “21,000 MT was harvested in 2012, from the new varieties, which according to him, would be used as seeds. The target, he said, is to plant 212,000 ha of wheat by 2014, with expected production of over 1 million MT and a projection to expand the cultivated area to 215,000 hectares by 2015, with an anticipated production of 1.2 million MT.
“So, in two years, if we accelerate investment, we should be able to produce 2.2 million MT of wheat. This would meet 68% of our domestic wheat requirements and save Nigeria N 431 Billion in wheat imports annually.”
He thereafter encouraged members to seriously consider investing in commercial wheat production to take advantage of the new opportunities.