As Nigeria and other African countries suffer wheat shortage, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, Tuesday, vowed to ensure Nigeria ranks Africa’s largest wheat producer and exporter.

Abubakar made the declaration in his keynote address delivered at the Stakeholders Validation Workshop of the National Wheat Strategy Document for Self-sufficiency in Nigeria held in Abuja.

He said this lofty dream can be achieved if Sudan and Ethiopia can do it why can’t Nigeria achieve more and export to rest of the world.

He said: “The wheat  industry has been a serious concern to the government of this country because our national requirement of wheat is 5.7 million metric tonnes annually while our production is only 420,000 metric tonnes as against the 71,000 metric tonnes.

“According to the Central Bank of Nigeria statistical report of 2020, Nigeria imported over $6 billion worth of wheat from 2016 to 2020. This is quite worrisome and unsustainable for a crop that could be produced locally to meet our national demand and beyond.

“As we are all aware the multiplier effect of COVID-19 pandemic and the current Russian-Ukraine War drastically affected the supply of wheat in the international market.

“Considering our growing population and our consumption rate for wheat and wheat products, and Nigeria has no option than to boost its own productivity and production to meet national demand.

“It is in this regard, the draft national strategy document was developed as a policy framework for direction.

“Indeed, the success of story of rice revolution through the National Strategy Document has transformed the rice industry in Nigeria.

“It is my firm belief that the replication of this same thing with wheat industry is not beyond the reach of Nigeria.

“If countries like Sudan and Ethiopia can do it why can’t Nigeria? We are bigger, more populous, more resources of all kinds, all kinds of climate, geological and ecological. In fact, if you plant anything on this planet you will find a place in Nigeria and wheat is no exception.”

However, the Minister said 10 years is too long to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production and others.

“In fact, I am thinking 10 years is even too long for us to achieve sufficiency. We can do it. All we have to do is to push the buttons and we will get there.

“I can assure you, for me, I will leave no stone unturned. I will go from here to the ‘moon’ while I am still a Minister of Agric to see that we achieve these goals of making sure that we produce wheat just as in rice we are number one in Africa today, I see no reason why we cannot be number one in wheat in Africa”, he stated.

In a goodwill message, the Director General of Nigeria Country Department of the African Development Bank, Lamin Barrow, who was represented by Chief Agro-Industry Officer, AfDB, Nigeria, Engr Tabi Karikari, expressed optimism that Nigeria would emerge top in wheat production.

Barrow also made it known about several interventions made by the AfDB in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

“Specifically on wheat, the Bank has a demonstrated ability to enhance national self-sufficiency in its production: The Bank has supported Ethiopia and Sudan to achieve 80% and 50% national self-sufficiencies respectively as at last year.

“The Bank is eager to join efforts with ongoing attempts by various stakeholders, notably the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Flour Milling Association of Nigeria to enhance the production of this commodity that sapped $2 billion of the country’s foreign exchange in year 2020 alone.

“It is against this backdrop, that the African Development Bank has supported the efforts initiated by FMARD in developing an informed Strategy that will synergize and harmonize efforts by all stakeholders; increase investment into the wheat value chain by crowding in private sector investment; and ultimately achieving a national wheat self-sufficiency through increasing the production areas from the current 100,000 Ha or so, to about 2 million Ha with productivity of 3.0 tons/ha or more.

“It is anticipated that in the upcoming dry season, with support from the Sector Budget Support provided by the Bank and other stakeholders for provision of seed, inputs, mechanization and extension services using the Innovation Platforms, at least 250,000 Ha will be put under cultivation, in clusters of 100 to 200 Ha. This was the game changer in Ethiopia and Sudan and we look forward to it being replicated in Nigeria”, he said.

In another goodwill message, the National President of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, WFAN, Salim Muhammad, said,  “On behalf of wheat farmers, we are going to have a standard national policy which we have been agitating over the years that without Government policy put in place the production of wheat in Nigeria will start having hurdles that is goin up and down.

“With exception of the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme we too need to have a robust programme like this one coming from African Development Bank.

“All farmers of wheat are happy with the coming of this development, and we are going to assure that we have the farmers’ record. We have over 2 million farmers registered under our Association. We are now into e-registration of each farmer for ease of reference, participation and recovery at the end of the programme.

“We are onto CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme, and we have cultivated over 60,000 hectares in Nigeria.

However, he called on government to assist on more land, also on mechanisation, and other inputs.

The team lead for the Strategic Stakeholders Validation Document Production, Dr Oluwasina Olabanji, while presenting an overview of the National Strategy for Wheat Self-sufficiency in Nigeria, lamented that, “We spend $2 billion annually importing wheat into this country; we importing joblessness, poverty, and others.”

He also pointed that successful administrations to accelerate local production and capacity through national initiatives as far back 1978, which within three years the tonnage rose to 450 metric tonnes from 50 tonnes, and that Nigeria can still achieve similar feat if all hands are on deck.

However stressing on the implementation of the document he said, “This strategy identifies the major interventions that need to be implemented to reach the key goals of achieving wheat self sufficiency through increasing productivity, production, marketing efficiency and incomes within the wheat sector.

“To ensure these interventions are implemented in a coordinated and prioritized manner, a national coordination committee shall be established. The following guidelines will form the implementation process.

“All activities will be classified into two categories: Priority activities complementary activities.”

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