Nigeria’s wheat production has been so dismal that for a decade the country only managed to produce just about two per cent of all the wheat it consumed.
Data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that between 2010 and 2020, as the consumption level of wheat rose, the country failed to grow more wheat, instead it closed the shortfall in supply by significantly importing more wheat.
On average, the country produced just 2.06 per cent of the total amount of wheat consumed during that period.
The figures largely explain why the prices of wheat-related products, including bread and pastry, have consistently risen in the country.
The data show that while Nigeria produced 60 tonnes of wheat in each of 2018, 2019 and 2020, the domestic consumption of the commodity in those years stood at 4760, 4900 and 4319 tonnes respectively.
In the last decade, the country recorded its largest amount of locally-produced wheat in 2010 and 2012 with 100 tonnes in each of those years.
Still, those figures were very low compared to the country’s annual demand and consumption of the commodity.
The consumption level, according to the USDA data, grew from 3582 tonnes in 2010 to 4900 tonnes in 2019. It fell slightly to 4760 tonnes in 2020.
“It is a shame on us that we cannot grow enough wheat in Nigeria despite all the available resources we have, all we need to do is to apply some level of science to up the yield,” said Jonathan Oloniyo, a food science and technology expert who runs a bakery in Abuja. “Have you seen any country making success in agriculture without applying science and technology? No one!”
Wheat is a cereal widely cultivated in many countries. It is typically milled into flour which is then used to make a wide range of foods including bread, noodles, pasta, biscuits, cakes, pastries, crisp-breads, among others. It is relatively high in protein compared to other major grains, experts say.
In Nigeria, wheat is grown mostly in Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Kano, Jigawa, and Zamfara
In 2020, amidst the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown, the prices of bread rose in the country by at least 14 per cent. A loaf of bread that previously sold for N350 has since then sold for N400 in Abuja.
Mohammed Salim, the president of the Wheat Growers Association of Nigeria, could not be reached on Wednesday. He was quoted by Daily Trust in July 2020 as saying that the lack of quality seeds had been the major challenge of the crop in Nigeria.
“One of our challenges is getting quality seeds every two years. Wheat is an open-pollinated crop, the maximum you can do with a particular seed is four years or thereabout, so if the government can finance the research institutes to come up with new varieties every two years, that will sustain production and keep the farmers in business,” the paper quoted him as saying.
In November 2020, the Flour Milling Association of Nigeria said it was set to intensify its collaborations with private agriculture development institutions -Oxford and BabbanGona to boost wheat production through its out-growers scheme for 8,000 smallholder farmers in Kano, Jigawa, and Kebbi, BusinessDay reported.
Mr Oloyino, who is also the managing director of JPillar Bakery, said using mechanised farming and provision of adequate security to farmers by the government will increase the country’s agricultural production.
“We should be more deliberate as a nation to support more mechanized farming in Nigeria, secure our farmlands and give farmers subsidies and Grants and also encourage our researchers and students on making discoveries on how to better bring yields to our crops,” he added.