Nigeria to import $2bn wheat next year


There are indications that Nigeria’s wheat imports for 2018/19 season would rise by four per cent from previous year of 4.2 million tons to 5.4 million tons valued at $2.26 billion. It was learnt that there would be aggressive wheat importation by blue chip flour millers under the aegis of Flour Millers Association of Nigeria. Nigeria is still struggling to expand her wheat production, which has been stagnant at 60,000 tons in the last three years due to instability in the wheat sector, thereby resorting to importation of the product as the only option to meet the country’s 4.2 million tons per annum consumption.

National President, Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN), Alhaji Salim Muhammad, in an interview, faulted the Federal Government for the country’s low wheat production, saying that government had abandoned the development of other agricultural segments in pursuit of rice production. He noted that the huge demand for wheat in Nigeria, which stands at 4.2 million tons and cost the nation about $4.3 billion in foreign exchange yearly was no longer attractive to the present administration since focus has shifted to self sufficiency in rice production.

Muhammad disclosed that the local production had slumped from 600,000 tons to less than 400,000, saying that the demand-supply gap was so wide that stakeholders are worried about the fate of the country’s wheat sector. According to the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), flour millers’ order for foreign exchange would rise in the foreign exchange market. Also, the insecurity in the North East region, following the Boko Haram insurgency, which has impeded cultivation of wheat, is one of the key reasons why Nigeria has not increase her wheat production. It was gathered that Flour Mills of Nigeria, Honeywell Flourmills and Dangote Flour Mills had increased their wheat imports allocation to meet up with domestic and industrial use. Nigeria is the world’s number ten buyer of wheat, spending $4.4 billion on imports last year and plans to cut shipments by 60 per cent by 2025, according to the data from FMARD. Most of the wheat is milled into flour for bakeries or used to produce pasta and other wheat-based foods.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had also said that the United States was the biggest exporter of the grain to Nigeria, with 3.3 million tons arriving in 2017, followed by Russia with 1.7 million tons. USDA said: “The average production cost of wheat hovers around $420 per ton, selling at $600 per ton in the Sahel region. High production costs are leading farmers and private sector investors to prioritise production for export, where they can obtain higher returns.”

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