The Oasis Reporters
December 19, 2021
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has earmarked N41billion for disbursement through Heritage Bank Plc to farmers across multiple states for the expansion of wheat farming project.
According to sources, the fund is to consummate the expansion of Wheat Seed Multiplication Project, as part of the CBN’s Brown Revolution Initiative, an intervention programme to flag-off and support the commencement of dry season wheat farming across states in Nigeria.
Speaking on this initiative, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said this move was part of the apex bank’s intervention to address the challenges in wheat value chain, thereby increasing the domestic production of wheat and closing the wide supply gap inherited in Nigeria’s agricultural space.
He explained: “Wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice. It is estimated that the country only produces about one per cent (63,000 metric tons) of the 5-6 million metric tons of the commodity consumed annually in Nigeria.
“This enormous demand-supply gap is bridged with over $2 billion spent annually on wheat importation. This has made wheat the second highest contributor to the country’s food import bill.
Commenting on this initiative, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Bank, Ifie Sekibo, noted that it would help reduce the nation’s food import bill by increasing wheat production, create market linkages between smallholders farmers and anchors/processors, create an ecosystem that drives value chain financing, improve access to credit by the smallholder farmers by developing credit history through the scheme and many more.
Sekibo said, “What we want to achieve is to end importation of seeds and make Nigeria self-sufficient in wheat production. We are working with about 30 firms focusing only on seed production and also working with CBN to make sure we register all farmers.”
Matters arising over this great wheat move include the fact that wheat is a temperate crop. Nigeria’s climate is largely tropical. Therefore what are the country’s advantage in wheat farming?
The only seeming near temperate climatic belt that Nigeria has is in the cold belt of Plateau region. And the people also have other more profitable crops to think of, not just wheat.
Though there’s no gainsaying the fact that wheat is rising to become a very important food grain due to lifestyle changes including the health challenges of high blood pressure etc, that necessitate changing food consumption from some of Nigeria’s food crops to wheat.
Their best way to approach this bottleneck is to massively fund research into producing a tropically amenable variety of wheat.
And since food is universal, let Nigeria increase growth of agricultural products that are more profitable in the country for export as the export proceeds are used to import wheat. That would be a win-win situation for international trade than embarking on some seeming gargantuan ventures where the country lacks comparative advantage for now.
Greg Abolo with agency reports.