$1.5bn AfDB fund to improve Nigeria’s wheat production

Nigeria will see a rise in its wheat production before the end of 2022, as African Development Bank (AfDB) has said it would give a substantial part of its recently launched $1.5billion emergency fund to the development of the grain in the country.

Experts, who spoke to BusinessDay on the sidelines of the ongoing AfDB annual meetings in Accra, Ghana, said boosting Nigeria’s wheat production will help the country avert a looming food crisis buoyed by the Russia-Ukraine war, COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

The fund will provide access to wheat resistance seeds that can grow in humid and temperate regions, fertilisers, and new technologies under the AfDB’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiative to farmers in Nigeria.

“This is not the first time we have experienced a global food crisis, but this is the worst because it is coming from the heels of the pandemic impact and increasing climate,” said Beth Dunford, vice president of agriculture, human and social development of the AfDB.

“We have been investing in new technologies that can help farmers adapt to climate change and improve their yields, the problem is that it hasn’t gotten to farmers at scale, and we are working to scale it,” Dunford said.

“Nigeria imports 5.6 million metric tonnes of wheat yearly that costs a lot of money and now, there is new technology called wheat tolerant seeds that allows farmers to grow wheat in areas they weren’t cultivated before,” she further said.

According to her, from the $1.5billion emergency facility, the bank is going to boost wheat production in Africa and Nigeria.

Lack of credits, insecurity and high cost of inputs has deterred farmers in Africa’s biggest economy from expanding their wheat production areas in recent years.

Industry sources say the facility will be a game-changer, “the problem we have with wheat production is access to credits and new technologies,” said Mohammed Saleh, president, Wheat Growers Association of Nigeria.

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“With the provision of new technologies and adequate wheat resistance seeds and fertilisers, we would be on the part of boosting our local wheat production with time,” Saleh said.

Currently, Nigeria produces 400,000 metric tonnes of wheat per annum, according to data from the federal ministry of agriculture.

The country is a major market for a species 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.

Also, under the African Emergency Food Production Facility, 20 million African smallholder farmers will be provided with certified seeds, increasing access to agricultural fertilizers that will enable farmers on the continent to rapidly produce 38 million tons of food, the bank said.

“The fund will provide a strategic roadmap to support Africa’s agriculture sector and safeguard food security against the Russian- Ukraine war impact,” said Adewumi Adesina, AfDB’s president.

According to him, the $1.5 billion strategy fund will lead to the production of 11 million tons of wheat, 18 million tons of maize, 6 million tons of rice, and 2.5 million tons of soybeans.

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