Nigeria Targeting Self Sufficiency In Wheat Production – Adebanj


As Nigeria advances towards self-sufficiency in wheat production, the Executive Director of Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Borno State, Dr Oluwasina Adebanji, in this interview with Ruth Tene Natsa spoke on the efforts and challenges  being made to ensure full sufficiency.

How has the insurgency affected wheat production?

The insurgency is very unfortunate, because it has set us back, particularly in the agricultural sector of that zone. Our wheat production is mainly from Kano, Borno, Kebbi and Jigawa and because of the insurgency, we were unable to grow our wheat in Borno State for the past four years. The Lake Chad Research Institute which has the national mandate for the genetic improvement of wheat in Nigeria acquired 60 hectares of land in Marte local government area (LGA)  of Borno State as that area is very suitable for wheat production.

The soil is very unique and rich in organic fertiliser. In fact in terms of irrigation instead of five days interval of irrigation, our wheat has about a week interval, that means the soil is able to retain enough moisture for the growth and development of our wheat. But for the past four years we are unable to exploit Borno State for our wheat production, rather we are moving from one state to another.

Three years ago, we were in Gombe, last year we were in Zamfara, where we acquired 30hectares of land for our research work and also seed production. This year we are in Kebbi State and I want to use this opportunity to appreciative the governor who generously gave us 30 hectares free of charge.

Right now our scientists and technicians are there and have planted the 30hectares of seed production and also established 15 trials of wheat. The trials are collaboration between the Institute, ICADA in Tunis and CIMMYT in Mexico. They send materials to the institute as we have partnership with them. We have also identified some of our materials, which we are demonstrating to the farmers. And not only that, for this year, we have been able to expand our wheat production to some of the marginal areas to enhance wheat production in Nigeria and for us to be self-sufficient in wheat production in the next five years.

Talking about these challenges, how much would you say it has cost the economy?

Initially if not because of the insurgency in the North East, we had projected that come 2017, Nigeria would reduce importation of wheat by 50 per cent, that was our goal, but unfortunately we could not attain that goal for now, but I believe, we have been able to achieve between 30-35 per cent sufficiency status.

Can we have the monetary value of that?

As we said Nigeria spends N635billion importing wheat to this country and this amount has been reduced by at least 30-35 per cent. With the projects we are doing in the marginal areas we have extended this pilot project to additional eight states, apart from the 13 traditional wheat producing states, we are now in Nasarawa, we have established a pilot wheat project there, we are in Abuja, Ogun, Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi and Niger, so eight additional states. As it is we are covering 21 out of 36 states for wheat production in Nigeria. We have six tolerant varieties now which we are extending, you know wheat is a temperate crop, its yield is limited by high temperature, and now that we have developed its tolerant varieties, we believe that there should be some varieties that would be suitable for each environment to increase production of wheat in Nigeria and enhance our self- sufficiency in the whole country.

How are you coping with the policy of promoting cassava flour as replacement for wheat?

The issue of wheat cassava bread came into being as a result of our inability to meet our national requirement. As at that time our production of wheat was very low,  2.2 per cent sufficiency on wheat production and the government had no choice but to look for other
crops that could be blended with the wheat, but now our self-sufficiency has increased to 7.6per cent. And I am telling you now with the political will of the present government and its consistent policies, I assure that in the next five years, we should be able to produce adequate quantity of wheat in this country. Why I am saying this is because for any agricultural produce market is the key, if there is no market, a farmer will not cultivate that crop, but through our wheat value chain we have opened the market for wheat production in Nigeria. The millers are buying all the wheat produced by our farmers and I want to use this opportunity to appreciate them because they granted my Institute N20million research grant to support research and development (R/D) and recently they distributed 2000 water pumps for wheat farmers and 2000 100kg bags of wheat to wheat farmers in four wheat producing states. This is very encouraging and this is just the beginning because they have promised to support wheat production in this country, so that they can have more materials, unlike before when they said Nigeria wheat was inferior, but today, it is accepted. Nigeria wheat is of high quality that is why most farmers are going into wheat production. Those farmers who went into vegetable production before have come back, because a bag sells for N40, 000.Which crop can attract such amount if not wheat?

What have been the challenges?

Generally the challenges are inadequate funding for research, though there is improvement, but we are Oliver Twists we ask for more, if we look at the technology now, it is advancing, we need more money to modernize our laboratory equipment. We need to promote mechanized farming, a situation where farmers are using hoes and cutlasses is not acceptable for self-sufficiency and government should intervene,  provide inputs for our farmers, give more attention to research. On the issue of insurgency, we thank God peace has returned to Borno State and I need to mention that the Institute has established trials and seed production in part of Borno State that is very safe, that is Jere LGA of Borno State and we are going to have a mini field day to show the outside world that Maiduguri is now very peaceful.

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