The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has commenced the process to conserve about $2 billion in foreign exchange with the funding of commercial wheat farming in 15 states of the federation in its new intervention under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
Over 150,000 farmers are expected to benefit from the new intervention in the wheat value chain through the cultivation of 180,000 hectares of land in the states.
Speaking at the flag-off ceremony for the Nigerian Brown Revolution, a CBN wheat value chain intervention in Kwall, Jos, Plateau State, President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration desires to achieve zero importation of wheat before leaving office in 2023.
Represented by the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, Buhari said the government will work with all stakeholders to ensure this objective is achieved in the most impactful way for the economy.
Buhari said his government was committed to supporting the agricultural sector to ensure the sustainability of food security efforts, contribute to foreign reserve accretion and ultimately support the growth of the Nigerian economy. He also encouraged the private sector to key into agricultural financing initiatives provided by the CBN and other government agencies.
“With this ongoing initiative, we will no doubt attain self-sufficiency in wheat production, attract more players to the wheat value chain and foster job creation in Nigeria,” Buhari said.
Nigeria currently spends about $2 billion annually importing 5.2 million metric tonnes of wheat to meet local demand. Nigeria’s local production is still about 1% of the local demand. Wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice. Issues leading to low local production include low yields, poor irrigation facilities, lack of ready market for the product and lack of sufficient high yield seed varieties.
“In order to change the situation and leverage domestic production to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country, the Central Bank of Nigeria has decided to add wheat to the list of focal commodities to be supported under the bank’s agricultural intervention programmes,” the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele said.
The CBN explained that its intervention in the wheat value chain is to address the impact of wheat importation on foreign exchange and in line with its mandate by ensuring availability of high yield seeds and pursuing strategic collaboration with key stakeholders in the wheat value chain.
This strategy seeks to reduce wheat importation by 60 per cent in two years and ultimately eliminate wheat importation or reduce it to an insignificant contributor to the country’s total food import bill.
It is the first major wet season of wheat production in Nigeria with about 700 hectares put under cultivation in Kwall, Kassa, Jol, Kafi Abu and Sop in Jos, Plateau State.
Emefiele who was represented by CBN’s Deputy Governor in charge of corporate services, Edward Adamu, said the short-term implication of this is the addition of about 2,000 metric tonnes of seeds to the national seed stock. He said the country can now potentially add 750,000 metric tonnes of wheat to the nation’s output annually through rain-fed wheat cultivation in Plateau, Mambila Plateau and Obudu Plateau.
Already, the CBN said it has added about 20,000MT of high yielding wheat seed variety to the stock of national seed supply, trained over 100 senior extension service officers on new technologies for wheat cultivation and designed a strategy for self-sufficiency in wheat production.
“The CBN will not rest on its oars as we continue to work with our partners, Lake Chad Research Institute(LCRI), to expand the frontiers of wheat production in Nigeria to areas like northern Oyo, Kogi and Kwara states,” Emefiele said.
The national chairman of the wheat farmers association of Nigeria, Salim Saleh Muhammad said the flag-off of the brown revolution is iconic because it will help Nigeria to be self-sufficient in wheat production and also produce for export.
He appealed to the financial institutions approved for the programme by the CBN to shun delay and proactively release funds for the wet season farming to meet the ultimate target of the new intervention.
Mr Emefiele also said N788.035 billion has been disbursed to about 4 million farmers through 23 participating financial institutions under its ABP. So far, 4.796 million hectares of farmlands have been cultivated under the programme covering 21 commodities.
The conviction is that rain-fed wheat production is possible in Nigeria. He said Nigeria farmers can get between 5-8 tonnes per hectare.