The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday flagged-off the first ever rain-fed wheat programme in the country, which aims to slash the importation of the commodity by 60 per cent in two years.
The initiative is also expected to save the country $2 billion annually in foreign exchange.
Speaking in Jos, Plateau State, during the unveiling ceremony for the Nigerian Brown Revolution, which is a central bank wheat value chain intervention, CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said following the successes in the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), the apex bank decided to extend the gains recorded in the rice and maize value chains to wheat production.
He said the plan was to ultimately eliminate wheat importation or reduce it to an insignificant contributor to the country’s total food import bill, adding that the wheat programme would benefit over 150,000 farmers.
He also said the programme would be implemented in 15 states on about 180,000 hectares of land.
Emefiele said the programme would address the impact of wheat importation on foreign exchange.
Represented at the occasion by CBN Deputy Governor, Corporate Services Directorate, Mr. Edward Adamu, the CBN governor said the country spends about $2 billion annually importing 5.2 metric tonnes of the commodity to meet local demand.
He said the programme was expected to add about 2,000 metric tons of seeds to the nation’s national seed stock and potentially add 750,000 metric tons of wheat to national output annually through rain-fed wheat cultivation in Plateau, Mambila Plateau and Obudu Plateau in the short-term.
Emefiele, however, pointed out that wheat remained the third most widely consumed grain in the country after maize and rice.
He said the country only produces about one per cent (63,000 metric tons) of the 5-6 million metric tons of the commodity consumed annually in Nigeria.
He said the enormous demand-supply gap was bridged with over $2 billion spent annually on wheat importation, making wheat the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill.
He said given the high growth rate of the country’s population and the demographic structure, the demand for wheat was projected to continue to rise, thereby intensifying pressure on the country’s reserves unless a decisive step is taken to grow the commodity locally.
Emefiele, also pointed out that over the years, the availability of low-yielding seeds variety locally and poor agronomic practices had hampered successful cultivation of wheat in the country, leading to low productivity as well as making wheat production unappealing to farmers and unattractive for private sector investment.
He added that the CBN, in order to change the narrative and leverage domestic production to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country, decided to add wheat to the list of focal commodities to be supported under the bank’s agricultural intervention programmes.
He stressed that improved seeds varieties constituted the bedrock of any crop production process, adding that the country had made some progress with regards to acquisition of high yielding varieties from Mexico with potential average yield per hectare of 5-7 metric tons as against a range of 0.8-1.8 metric tons yield per hectare of those varieties previously cultivated.
Emefiele said the two-pronged approach of seed multiplication and grains production already adopted is expected to sustain the propagation of seeds and guarantee availability of high-yielding seeds to farmers.
He said the CBN’s strategy for the wheat value chain involved
ensuring availability of high-yield seeds by financing seed multiplication and establishment of seed ripple centres.
Other are expanding land under cultivation for wheat to a capacity that could meet total national demand through association and collaboration with relevant federal agencies and state governments.
He said the strategy was to also pursue strategic collaboration with key stakeholders in the wheat value chain for sustained local production.
Emefiele, however, said food security remained a major delivery for governments across the globe, hence the bank was supporting the efforts of the federal government by providing affordable and accessible financing options to drive domestic food production.
He said the ABP remained a game changer in financing smallholder farmers through innovative funding models centred around building an effective agro-ecosystem, hinged on the value chain approach.
He said the ABP had recorded successes in supporting smallholder farmers to increase the cultivation of different commodities across the 36 States of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The governor said through the programme, N788.035 billion had been disbursed to about four million farmers through 23 Participating Financial Institutions (PFI).
He said so far, 4.796 million hectares of farmlands had been cultivated under the programme covering 21 commodities.
He said the flag-off of the wheat programme was auspicious in a lot of ways as it heralds the commencement of the Brown Revolution Journey, which is the CBN’s mantra for repositioning wheat production in the country.
He said it was also the first major wet season wheat production in the country with about 700 hectares put under cultivation in Kwall, Kassa, Jol, Kafi Abu and Sop in Jos.
He said: “The CBN will not rest on its oars as we continue to work with our partners, Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), to expand the frontiers of wheat production in Nigeria to areas like northern Oyo, Kogi and Kwara states.
“The wheat fields you are seeing here today are historic and further underscore the enormous potentials in our agricultural landscape.
“We are hopeful that with the right technology and agronomic practices, we can change the narratives and develop two wheat cropping cycles to support an aggressive drive to bridge the wheat demand-supply gap in Nigeria.”
James Emejo in Abuja