Wheat Import: Oluwasina Olabanji, an agricultural expert and former executive director of Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, has described the high rate of wheat importation into the country as alarming, despite arable land suitable to grow the commodity.
He said Nigeria is currently spending about $4.2 billion yearly to import wheat from the United States of America while importation across Africa stood at $15 billion yearly.
Olabanji spoke at the weekend during a farm work on 30,000 hectares wheat and barley cultivation field situated at Taloka village in Goronyo Local Government Area of Sokoto state.
A private agro-firm, Foladapo Global Enterprise, and Heritage Bank initiated the large-scale wheat farm, which debuted as a pilot project in the state.
He disclosed that the current wheat production capacity in the country stood at 625,000 metric tonnes per annum, which, according to him, “is far below the required capacity.”
Olabanji noted that Nigeria was blessed with arable land suitable for varieties of wheat and barley seeds, with comparative advantages.
“If government can come up with policies that can assist farmers who are interested in wheat farming. Then Nigeria can be a self-sufficient nation in wheat production.”
He said as part of efforts to close the production gab, the Lake Chad Institute in Maiduguri, developed improved varieties that could yield between five to six tonnes per hectare.
“We are also expanding the wheat production to non-traditional areas such as Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa and Kwara states through Lake Chad Institute and a project called Technology for Africa Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) funded by Africa Development Bank (AfDB),” he explained.
Olabanji said the TAAT project would focus on African countries to ensure self-sufficiency in wheat ad barley production, as well as create more job opportunities for youth and women among other benefits.
He noted that the pilot project in Taloka village was done to demonstrate quality seeds of both wheat and barley that would be grown in the state.
Olugbenga Awe, the Group Head, Agric Finance, Export & FMCG, Heritage Bank, said the wheat and barley farm project was the first of its kind in Sokoto, and in the whole North West.
Awe, who also represented Foladapo Global Enterprises, commended the community for its harmonious working relationship and the cooperation of the state government in ensuring the success of the pilot project.
He described barley as a multi-purpose commodity with comparative advantage in making malt, syrup and bread apart from its traditional uses.