Low productivity in wheat farming is costing Nigeria about $4.2 billion annually on the import of the commodity, according Olowasina Olabanji, the executive director, Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Maiduguri, Borno State.
He said the country produces far less than its national consumption level of about 4.7 million metric tonnes, adding that the country must see to a strategic expansion of scope across the country to improve the situation.
Olabanji who spoke at a capacity building workshop for wheat farmers in the South-south Agro Ecological Zone Wednesday, said the event was aimed at bridging the gap between national consumption and local production of wheat in Nigeria.
”In order to bridge the gap between what we consume and what we produce, we need to expand our scope to the South West, the South East and the South-South. Although, wheat is mostly grown in the Northern part of the country, research has shown that it can also do well in the South-South, it is a crop that can adapt to new environment,” Olabanji stated.
According to him, plans were underway to reduce wheat importation by 60 percent in 2025, adding that Nigeria had the potentials to be self sufficient in production of the commodity.
He said Nigeria had 650,000 hectares of land for wheat production in the North and about 80,000 hectares for wheat production during rainy season in Cross River, Plateau and Taraba States.
Olabanji said the Federal Government was committed to the diversification of the nation’s economy through agriculture, adding that the capacity building for the farmers is to train the trainers.
”After the training, we are going to help the farmers get some farm equipment, organised them into cooperative groups to enable them access incentives, inputs and grants to commence expansion of wheat production.
“Our expectations are that many farmers In the South-South region will add value to the wheat value chain in Nigeria.”
Also speaking, Naplitali Telta, wheat coordinator, ministry of agriculture and rural development, said the initiative was to conserve the nation’s foreign exchange by increasing local production of wheat.
”The training is meant to expand and breech the gap between local production and imported wheat, it is also to teach the farmers how to use good agricultural practices in the cultivation of the produce” Telta said.