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Nigeria suspends plan to export sorghum to UK

Nigeria suspended its plan to begin exporting sorghum to the United Kingdom in 2020, as a result of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the country representative of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hakeem Ajeigbe, has said.

Mr Ajeigbe told PREMIUM TIMES in March 2020 that potential buyers of the beverage-making cereal had already been contacted in the UK, sales were to start shortly.

“Very soon we will be exporting malted sorghum to Britain,” Mr Ajeigbe had said. “I have already linked the major market to some of our sorghum off-takers in Nigeria, they will malt the sorghum and then send it to Britain, there is a market there, there is somebody who wants to buy.

“By now, they should have finished with the deal. I have made the linkage – that means that our farmers will be exporting malted sorghum this year, not next year. Actually, the thing is even in some weeks’ time, malted sorghum will be exported outside the country.’’

He told this newspaper on Tuesday that the pandemic “scattered everything” just as the implementation of the plan was getting underway.

“The derivatives there was almost like agreed with the guy who is going to buy it in the United Kingdom. He was supposed to come and then this COVID embargo on travel just put it on hold but we are hoping this will improve and we will start again,” Mr Ajeigbe said.

Sorghum in Nigeria

Nigeria produces large amounts of sorghum, a cereal that can be used as a replacement for maize, wheat, millet and even for rice and all kinds of food.

In Nigeria, sorghum is the third most widely grown cereal after maize and millet. The grain can be popped, boiled, roasted or ground to make flour for pastry and baking.

It is used for the production of flatbreads, porridge, pancakes, alcoholic beverages including beer and liquors.

 According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Nigeria is the largest producer of sorghum in West Africa, accounting for about 71 per cent of the total regional sorghum output and ranks the second largest producer of sorghum in the world.

It is mainly produced in the northern parts of the country, in Plateau, Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Gombe, Bauchi, Zamfara, Benue, Kogi, Nasarawa and Taraba States.

The crop has contributed to about 30 per cent of calories intake per capita among all cereal crops consumed in the country over the past two decades, according to the FAO.

“We are promoting it for industrial use now and once we start using it for industrial activities the demand will go up and that’s what we are hoping,” Mr Ajeigbe said.

“When the demand goes up the good thing for sorghum is you can easily increase the production without even increasing the land area, we can increase our production by at least 40 per cent easily.

“Many of the Nigerian flour mills who are the owner of Northern Nigeria Flour Mills are using sorghum now,” he said.

“They are putting about 10-20 per cent sorghum in those wheat flour and they are also milling sorghum as a whole.

He said Nigeria would have been the largest producer in the world but for the crisis in the North East. The crop is grown mostly in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, the birthplace of the terrorist group, Boko Haram.

The institute, ICRISAT, is doing a lot to promote the crop and is partnering with the government, he said.

“During the time of Obasanjo, we are promoting cassava bread but you can do sorghum bread without looking for all those enzymes that are needed for the cassava bread.

“We work hand in hand with the federal ministry of agric. Anyway, the minister is planning a sorghum rebranding, let’s see how it works,” he added.