Durum wheat heads, hand with closeup of heads
A host of stakeholders from private and public sectors in the agricultural value chain gathered virtually to chart the path forward on the declining state of wheat production in Nigeria.
The webinar themed; “Deepening the Wheat farming development in Nigeria through innovation, increasing investments and collaborations”, held on March 26th and was hosted by the Olam Green Land (a multi-national food and agri-business company), in collaboration with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).
At the two-hour-long webinar, Panelists and speakers from local and international organisations examined how policymakers, farmers, millers and consumers can work together to improve the wheat value chain in Nigeria.
Wheat production in Nigeria has witnessed severe setbacks in the past few years owing to the absence of improved seed varieties, among other factors.
From 2010 to 2020, Nigeria is said to have produced only 2% of the wheat consumed in the country while 98% percent comes from importation, according to a data report from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono had said, in a media report in February 2021, that the country spent up to N2.2 trillion on the import of wheat in the last four years.
Speaking at the event in his opening remarks, Managing Director of Crown Mills, (Olam) Ashish Pande said the two main objectives of the webinar is to identify “what needs to be done to improve the overall efficiency of the wheat value chain” in Nigeria and determine the how to use “innovations, increased investments and collaborations” to facilitate self-sufficiency of wheat production in the country.
Commenting on the solutions during his speech, Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture Colleges and Institutes, Hon. Munir Baba, urged the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, not to “work in silos”, adding that he should set up an “innovative platform” that will comprise stakeholders in the wheat value chain who will meet at regular intervals to address emerging challenges in the sub-sector.
National President Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN), Salim Saleh Mohammed, subsequently maintained that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture needs to convene “critical stakeholders meeting” that will design a clear-cut policy to boost local production of wheat just as it was done for rice production a few years ago. He further stated that all efforts may be futile if there is no policy to guide actions.
On her part, Representative of Flour Miller’s Association of Nigeria (FMAN), Sarah Huber stressed the need for availability of seed varieties based on farmers’ situations and geographical needs to increase yields of wields from 1 to 3 tons per hectare.
“Wheat is more than a grain”- Fillopo Marai Bassi
Speaking on the topic; Wheat in West Africa: Innovation as Solutions, Durum Wheat Breeder, Fillop Marai Bassi highlighted the several benefits of wheat production to both operators and non-operators in the value chains.
Some of the benefits, he said, include the creation of jobs and income in rural areas, production of straws as feeds for animals, reduction of soil erosion and provision of an alternative diet for humans which “contains high protein and microelements”.
“When you put wheat in the diet, it brings more protein and more microelements that rice does not have”, he added
On the solutions to the declining production of the cereal in Nigeria, the food scientist recommends that the government create what he described as a national catalogue release for seed varieties which will include millers and farmers. He added that farmers and millers need to work to establish a framework to bridge the disparity in the price of local and imported wheat.
Other recommendations include the establishment of a community-based seed enterprise, development of infrastructure for research and enhancement of human capacities.