The spate of insurgency in the war-torn North-Eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe has caused a setback in the country’s quest to boost local wheat production, as farmers abandon their fields and ran to relatively peaceful states such as Kano, Kaduna and Sokoto.
“The insurgency in the North-Eastern region is a major setback to our efforts in increasing wheat production. Before the Boko Haram conflicts, Borno alone contributes 30 percent to the country’s total output,” Saleh Mohammed, president, Wheat Growers Association of Nigeria.
“For the past three years now Borno has contributed nothing to the country’s output, while Yobe and Adamawa have been very minimal.
“Farmers have fled their farmlands in those regions for safety but the government is making arrangement to provide security for farmers in those regions that wants to return to farming wheat,” Mohammed said.
Nigeria’s produces 400,000 metric tons per annum and demand is put at 4 million metric tons, leaving a supply demand gap of 3.6 million metric tons, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
The gap has made Africa’s biggest economy a dumping ground for sub-standard wheat, with the resultant depletion of foreign reserves and rising unemployment.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Nigeria’s 2015/2016 wheat imports are estimated to be 5 million tons, a 4 percent increase from 2014/2015 estimates, due to Boko Haram insurgency in the northern part of the country, which chased out farmers to less volatile states.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) in its recent country briefs for Nigeria said, “Boko Haram conflict has had a huge impact on agriculture as a result of the large‑scale population displacement and restrictions imposed on agriculture activities, leading to a sharp drop in planted areas in some states, notably in Borno State.”
Abdurahaman Modibbo Girei, president, Adamawa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told BusinessDay that most farmers had abandoned their farms and fled, while major borders had been shut owing to high insecurity in the state.
“Farmers have deserted their farms and fled from hostile parts of the state, to less volatile areas,” Girei said.
Nigeria is a major market for a specie of wheat known as ‘hard red winter.’ There is also a growing demand for soft red winter for biscuits and cookies; hard white wheat for bread and noodles, and durum wheat for pasta, experts say.
Wheat farmers in the North East region have enjoyed high patronage from manufacturers and also government support.
A wheat farmer in Kebbi State, Muhammed Augie, who heads wheat farmers association in the state, told BusinessDay that, “Government has been supporting a lot of wheat farmers in Kebbi and its neighbouring states to increase production by providing loans and seeds for farmers. Also, the patronage from companies has increased tremendously.”
Apart from the issue of insurgency, Nigeria’s wheat production has face a lot of issues among which are illiteracy and lack of technological know-how among wheat farmers.
Abiodun Olorundero, CEO of Green Vine Farms, said what might mitigate further progress made so far in the agriculture sector was lack of technology.
“Lack of technology and innovation remains one of the reasons why we still have a shortfall in production. Technology is very crucial if Nigeria really wants to boost agric productivity. Government must key into agriculture using technology to attract the youth,” Olorundero said.
However, as a result of government renewed efforts to boost wheat production, farmers yield per hectare has risen from between one and two metric tons per hectare to three and four metric tons per hectare in recent months, according to a report by the United States Department of Agriculture.