The annual demand for wheat in Nigeria is about 4.2 million, but the nation produces about 600,000 metric tonnes, which is about 12.2 per cent of what the nation needs to be self sufficient, leaving demand gap of over 3.8 million metric tonnes.

The country needs about four million hectares of land given the average yield of four to five tonnes per hectare to be able to achieve that self sufficiency target.

Currently, Nigeria imports about four million metric tonnes of wheat every year, spending around $4bn.

This figure, however, “is expected to reach $10bn by 2030 when Nigerians are predicted to consume over 10m metric tonnes of imported wheat to satisfy their growing demand for non-traditional foods like pasta, noodles, and bread,” Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Nigeria’s former minister of agriculture has said.

Although the Lake Chad Research Institute has released wheat varieties such as LACRI WHIT-1 (Seri M82), LACRI WHIT-2 (Cettia), LACRI WHIT-3 (Linfen) and LACRI WHIT-4 (Atilla Gan Atilla), which  have potential yields of 3.0 to 4.5t per hectare, the nation is not yet anywhere close to self sufficiency.

To encourage domestic production, the wheat farmers association of Nigeria signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Flour Millers Association of Nigeria to offtake the grains after production.

That MoU left many wheat farmers, particularly in Kano and Jigawa states, in anger and pains because the agreed price per kilogramme is far from the cost of production.

The farmers want a review but the millers are not ready to accept such review. The farmers are threatening to boycott production next season-a threat the Federal Government must take seriously.

Although the MoU has expired, the millers are maintaining a similar condition as contained in the agreement since they are the major buyers- the farmers do not have an option.

Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (Kano State chapter) Farouk Rabiu, described the situation as an extortion of wheat farmers by the big millers.

Speaking to agriculture correspondents in Kano, he said some governors in the north-west had an agreement with millers to offtake wheat at prices that did not favour farmers.

Mallam Rabiu said millers bought 100kg bag of wheat at N18, 000 and that this price was not good for the farmer to break even from the cost of production.

The National Chairman, Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria and a member of the National Task Force on Rice and Wheat, Alhaji Salim Muhammad, called for a national sustainable policy structure on rice and wheat to protect farmers in the country and to boost production.

“Without a policy supported by the government, I don’t think that this administration will be able to sustain production, and a subsequent government that is not interested may wave it aside and the production of wheat may be mere history in Nigeria,” he said.

How Jigawa waded in

Speaking to agric journalists, Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State admitted that the state and the association of flour millers had agreed to uptake and had already bought reasonable tonnes of wheat from the state.

“This year we agreed on price with them, we agreed that they will buy at N18,000, but it was really very difficult for us to get to that negotiation because when we were buying the seeds, the price as at that time (because of the scarcity of seeds) was N32,000 per bag; but now farmers have to sell grains at N18, 000,” he stated.

He, however, noted that there was a difference between grains and seeds.

 “When farmers started harvesting, the price was between N24,000 and N25,000 and later went down to  N15,000; and at that price we intervened and it has picked up now and is between N18,000 and N19,000,” he said.

Governor Badaru stressed that the state was going to give loans to farmers for the cluster approach they did for massive upscale production from the 100,000 metric tonnes achieved during the last season, adding that, “we are working very hard so that next season will be very profitable and better for farmers.”

The Kebbi approach

While speaking on the issue, Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu noted that Kebbi did not participate in the MoU because the state was worried about future availability of seeds and so decided to buy everything the farmers produced, which they would use as seeds next season.

“We did not participate in selling what we produced and that was what saved the nation: we have to be clear and clever,” he said.

Governor Bagudu, who is the Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Rice and Wheat Production, stated that people who imported wheat were buying auctioned wheat, stressing that, “for us to achieve that four million tones, we have to support our farmers by providing the seeds for planting.”

Kano helping farmers to mechanise

The Kano State government has acquired two combined harvesters for wheat farmers in the state-an effort Alhaji Salim Muhammad, who is the leader of Nigeria wheat farmers, has applauded.

He, however, said the state needed no fewer than 10 combined harvesters to lessen the burden of the farmers as old methods most times resulted in wastage.

For now some wheat farmers who suffered from falling prices caused by MoU with millers are sceptical about going into wheat production this season. They are considering expanding their rice farms as rice is considered more lucrative.

Until the Federal Government and the wheat producing states intervene to sustain production, Nigeria will have to rely on importation for many years, which could reach trillions of dollars as demand grows with the country’s population