By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday, maintained that wheat importation into the country will end soon as the federal government has put in place measures to boost productivity of local wheat farmers.
Ogbeh disclosed this at the ongoing ‘International Conference on Wheat’, organised by the Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) project of the African Development Bank, AfDB, in Abuja.
The minister, who was represented by the Director of Agribusiness and Marketing in the ministry, Dr Muyiwa Azeez, revealed that farmers in the country were currently producing high-quality wheat for consumption.
He said: “As a result of this, the Flour Milling Association of Nigeria submitted a written commitment to the ministry, stating that they will off-take all the wheat produced by Nigerian wheat farmers.”
Also speaking at the opening ceremony of the conference, President, AfDB, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, who was represented Director of Agriculture, Dr Chiji Ojukwu, said with the potential in wheat production in Nigeria it has the capacity to inject $13.4 billion into the economy in a short while.
Adesina said AfDB through various agricultural programmes has targeted an increase in production of wheat from 2.5 tonnes to 7 tonnes per hectare. He disclosed that the SARD-SC four-year project was funded by AfDB with $63 million.
Meanwhile, the Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu, commended research institutes in the country for tackling certain agronomic practices, which initially reduced wheat yield per hectare, therefore has positioned farmers for increased wheat production.
According to Bagudu states that have improved the process and practice of wheat production in Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe, Niger and Plateau, and among others.
He however, acknowledged the on international ‘trade war’ and politics said has been a major challenge for wheat farmers to rise up to the occasion to be on the forefront in global wheat production and export, thereby has negatively affected efforts to achieve sufficiency in wheat production in Nigeria and Africa.
“Last year, only about five states recorded significant increase in wheat production but as a result of mobilisation, about 11 states have improved inputs and increased yields.
“If we have no research that informs policymakers about the totality of support that is given in countries, with whom we are competing and from whom we are importing, we are likely to continue penalising our wheat value chain. African wheat is competitive but farmers need support”, he stated.
Speaking on the wheat project in Africa, the Coordinator of the SARD-SC wheat project, Dr Solomon Asefa, said that the project was aimed at enhancing food security and nutrition in Africa, with a target economic growth in 12 African countries towards poverty reduction and employment creation. Asefa disclosed that Nigeria’s wheat production from has increased from 70,000 tonnes in 2012 to 400,000 tonnes in 2016.
According to him wheat consumption in Africa has increased significantly following about $15 billion wheat importation. Outlining some of the challenges faced in wheat production in Africa he (Asefa) said include environmental conditions, technology, policies and marketing.
However, President, Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, WFAN, Mr Salim Mohammed, lamented lack of farmers’ access to improved seeds and modern farming equipment to boost production and demanded government support for wheat farmers to increase production, which they occupy a strategic position in the nation’s economic growth and development based on their contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.