Nigeria eyes imports to fulfill wheat needs

17.11.2016

Most of country's wheat farmlands are rain-fed and insufficient to accommodate production.
 
With production of major grain crops limited, Nigeria is expected to continue to rely on imports during the 2016-17 marketing year, according to a Nov. 9 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).

Nigeria’s combined cereal imports of wheat, rice and corn are expected to reach nearly 6.8 million tonnes this year, including a forecast of 4.5 million tonnes for wheat, up 2% from 2015-16, according to the FAS.

Domestic wheat production in Nigeria is limited, with forecasts calling for wheat area and production of 60,000 hectares and 60,000 tonnes, respectively, during the 2016-17 marketing year.

“Although substantial progress was recorded in reclaiming farmlands from Boko Haram insurgents, many returnees, including wheat farmers require rehabilitation as homes and basic infrastructure were largely destroyed by the insurgents,” the FAS noted. “Most of Nigeria’s wheat farmlands are rain-fed and insufficient to bring about increased production needed for self-sufficiency while available irrigation infrastructure is largely inadequate for acreage expansion. Irrigation projects are capital-intensive and, given the present availability of government support, it seems unlikely that funds will be made available for required irrigation projects. The wheat variety produced by Nigerian farmers is high in protein content but low in gluten, a characteristic that is unsuitable for producing the bread preferred by Nigerian consumers.”

Consumption of wheat in Nigeria was forecast at 4.1 million tonnes, driven by a sustained increase in bread consumption in the country as prices of domestic staples have increased by an average of 40% over the past three months, making wheat flour products relatively more inexpensive.

“Bread is a major staple in Nigeria and it remains comparatively the less expensive staple eaten by majority of consumers despite a 20% price increase recorded over the same three-month period of review,” the FAS noted in its report.

The FAS said wheat flour, produced entirely from U.S. hard red winter wheat, remains the most preferred by Nigerian consumers, but the U.S.-supplied HRW wheat is also the most expensive compared to other types of wheat sourced from third-country suppliers. U.S. suppliers controlled more than 90% of Nigeria’s wheat market share in 2011, the FAS said.

“Given the falling currency and higher-than-normal market prices, consumers’ purchasing power has weakened, thereby preventing wheat millers to raise market prices to help offset production costs,” the FAS noted. “To remain operational and financially viable, millers are increasingly blending and adjusting their wheat milling formulas to achieve bread flour that is acceptable to Nigerian bakers while maintaining favorable profit levels.

“Wheat products, especially bread, will continue to be widely consumed in Nigeria as a major staple. Consumption of pasta, noodles, and semolina are, however, on the decline as they are now being considered to be luxury items. Traditionally, in Nigeria, 70% of the total wheat flour produced by the mills goes into bread manufacturing, with 15% being utilized for pasta production, and all other wheat products, including semolina, accounting for the remaining 15%. This year, these percentages are expected to shift to more than 80% for bread and dough production and the remaining shared equally between the production of pasta (10%) and other wheat products, including noodles and semolina (10%).”


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