Farmers Fault FG’s Claim On Wheat Production

Wheat field and blue sky with sun.

Amidst claims by government and other stakeholders in the wheat value chain that the country had increased its wheat production from 70,000 tonnes in 2012 to 400,000 tonnes in 2016, the reality is that the country still produces only three per cent of what is consumed, while the remaining 97 per cent is sourced from other countries.

According to reports, wheat importation remains at N10m daily. Two months ago, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh assured at the 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), of government’s readiness to put an end to the continuous wheat importation, in order to boost local production and encourage farmers.

He stated that the country was currently producing high-quality wheat, noting that due to the development, the Flour Milling Association of Nigeria submitted a written commitment to the ministry, to off-take all the wheat produced by local wheat farmers.

 Despite the crop’s potentials and prospects of generating regular income for farmers, governments have been paying lips service to boosting the value chain, a factor that has led to the country’s total reliance on importation.The AfDB President, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, recently disclosed that wheat production has the capacity of injecting $13.4b into the Nigerian economy.

He noted that the AfDB, via its agricultural programmes, was planning to increase the production of wheat from 2.5 tonnes to seven tonnes per hectare, adding that the AfDB funded the SARD-SC project, which was a four-year programme with $63m.

With the array of challenges facing wheat farmers, government’s dream of bringing an end to importation, might be a mirage for now, as the farmers who have major roles to play to ensure increase in local production of the crop are handicapped.

President, Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, Saleh Mohammed said the major challenge militating against their production increase is lack of access to improved seeds and modern equipment.

He added that inability of government at all levels to provide inputs has also discouraged local production. Also, Chairman, Wheat Farmers Association, Kebbi State, Abdullahi Argungu, listed their challenges as lack of quality seed, unavailability of inputs and marketing problem.

While confirming that they experienced bountiful harvest in 2016, with the introduction of new varieties of the crop, he noted that if the Federal Government can fully support the farmers, by providing them with good quality seeds, inputs and other logistics, the country will not only match its consumption level with what it produces, it will also export quality wheat to other countries. “This year, we are going to produce more than what we recorded last year.”

The Guardian learnt that last year, only five states recorded significant increase in wheat production, but as a result of mobilisation, about 11 states have received inputs and increase their yields. The states includes-Kebbi, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Bauchi, Zamfara, Gombe, Niger, Plateau, and Kano.

Kano has promised to produce over 100, 00onnes this year. According to the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, the target would be a positive response to over 30,000 hectares of land put to use this year, stressing that Kano is the largest producer of wheat in the country.

 Last year, the state worked on 10,000 hectares of land, which yielded above 30,000 tonnes, Gawuna highlighted. “All we are doing is in line with the governor’s plans. He has consideration for the Federal Government’s economic diversification policy.

He, therefore, commended the development partners for their efforts at boosting the agricultural sector in the state, especially Sasakawa, Lake Chad Research Institute, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, and others.

“There was a year that we gave them N100m for improved seed. Because other farmers joined the following year, we gave them additional N50m to procure more seed. You can now see how all these improved our wheat production in the state,” he explained.

Gawuna revealed that the state government deposited N30m for Compact Milling Machine for the processing of wheat, to add more value to the whole chain and process.“We also made it mandatory every year that there is going to be wheat and rice planting season. So also harvesting season. All these things are done to improve quality and quantity altogether,” Gawuna concluded.

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