Nigerian Minister pledges to triple Wheat Areas to 300,000 ha in 2017
The African Development Bank (AfDB) funded Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) Wheat project organized a national field day with its local partners and Federal Minister of Agriculture on 12th March 2016 at Alkamawa, Kano State under the patronage of his Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari who was ably represented by the Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Honorable Audu Ogbeh. This project is being implemented by ICARDA in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and national partners under the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat.
The field day was attended by over 1000 stakeholders, 700 men and 300 women, including parliamentarians, senior federal and state level government officials, farmers, extension specialists, researchers, NGO representatives, input suppliers, millers, youth and women groups engaged in the value chain activities, and invited guests.
The Minister revealed that for nearly 40 years, Nigeria had tried to produce wheat of accepted quality without success, but that hurdle has now been crossed. The new high yielding and heat tolerant wheat varieties introduced by ICARDA meet the required end use quality. As a result, the Nigerian Millers Association has officially submitted a written commitment to the Ministry stating that that they will buy all the wheat produced in the country during this season through the new initiative. During the 2016 cropping season, the Honorable Minister stated that the country is expecting to harvest 350,000 tons of wheat from the total 100,000 ha of wheat areas.
The Minister further announced that the country has dedicated 300,000 hectares of land to wheat production in 2017 to significantly reduce the over dependence on importation. To this effect, his Ministry and the Government will continue to support wheat farmers by providing inputs, mechanized operations and access to credit and markets.
“Today, Nigeria is spending over US$ 4.6 billion every year on wheat importation and domestic production accounts for less than 7 percent of the country’s annual wheat requirements,” he said, and added that this dependence on wheat importation was ‘totally unacceptable.’ The only way to stop this would be through transforming rural economies by transforming agriculture.
The Minister appreciated the significant contributions of the SARD-SC project, ICARDA, CIMMYT and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in the promotion of improved wheat technologies in Nigeria. He also praised the African Development Bank (AfDB) for funding the SARD-SC project which is strategic to Africa.
The Chairman of Nigeria Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, promised to table legislative reforms to support wheat production saying that the senate would enact legislation to remove all obstacles being faced by wheat farmers in the country.
Speaking at the forum, the SARD-SC wheat coordinator, Dr. Solomon Assefa, said that with the new high yielding and heat tolerant wheat varieties, and excellent work with farmers and value chain actors including the private sector in the milling and baking industries, Nigeria will significantly its dependence on wheat imports, increase income for farmers and stakeholders, create job opportunities for women and youth and alleviate poverty. The field day presented an opportunity for farmers, policy makers and other stakeholders to discuss and interact on ways of further enhancing wheat production, processing and marketing in Nigeria.