By Samson Echenim
Wheat has maintained its lead as the biggest food importation in Nigeria since July. More number of vessels are calling on the country’s seaports with the product in an unprecedented manner.
Five vessels laden with bulk wheat are billed for Rivers Port in Port Harcourt, with three expected to find berths, while two are already being offloaded.
Seastar Endeavour, which offloaded 60,000 metric tons of bulk wheat at Apapa port two weeks ago is one of the three ships expected to berth at the Portharcourt port with total volume of 54,521 metric tons. Four Diamond and 190-metre Bulk Beothuk are among the 21 vessels currently berthing at the port in Portharcourt, according to shipping statistics from the Nigerian Ports Authority.
Nigeria’s major supplier of wheat, the United States said two weeks ago that wheat would likely drive its exports into Nigeria by 2020 by 200,000 tons, representing a four percent rise.
Nigeria’s exploding population growth and industrial demand for wheat, key ingredient for making biscuit are named factors for the rise in wheat importation.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest populous country with 203.4 million, according to Central Intelligence Agency’s July 2018 estimates, and its growing population at an annual 2.54 percent (2015-20), is causing big shift to consumption of “greater amounts of wheat-flour based products”, country’s growers and bakers said.
The US department of agriculture says the rise in wheat consumption attributable to population growth as well as industrial demand will drive import from Nigeria’s largest suppliers including Russia, the United States, Canada, and Australia to 5.6 million tons in the marketing year of 2019/20 from 5.4 million tons in the 2018/19 marketing year. Nigeria’s imports of Russian-origin wheat totalled about 1.9 million tons last year, compared to imports of U.S.-origin wheat of 1.7 million tons.
Nigeria is Africa’s leading manufacturer of biscuits, with annual production estimated at 152,490 tons.
Leading biscuit manufacturers including OK Biscuits (OLAM International), Yale Biscuits, Niger Foods, Beloxxi Biscuits, and Energy Foods. Nigerian biscuit segment is valued at $617 million, having grown at a compound annual growth rate 16 percent in the last five years, according to KPMG.
Nigerian growers said the country produces nearly one million tons a year, although USDA pegged production at 60,000 tons, with yields holding steady at one metric ton per hectare.
Seventy percent of the flour milled from wheat goes into bread, pasta, noodles, biscuits in Nigeria, with bakers favouring flour from imported wheat over locally produced commodity because locally produced wheat tends to have higher protein content, lower moisture and lower gluten; characteristics not well suited for bread production.