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Capacity building: Critical to boosting Nigeria’s wheat production

With 420,000 metric tons of wheat produced in Nigeria in 2020, according to data by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the country is still far from bridging its 4.6million metric tons annual wheat gap.

To support in boosting local wheat production and ensure that the country bridge its huge wheat demand-supply gap, Crown Flour Mill along with the flour milling association through a collective effort is taking significant steps to stimulate faster development of the wheat production segment through the implementation of a bold capacity-building strategy.

The strategy includes bringing local wheat farmers up to speed with modern and innovative farming practices.

To this end, the association, therefore, has established Wheat Farmer Service Centers in 15 Local Government Areas across major wheat-producing states – Jigawa, Kano, and Kebbi, with training, threshing support, and direct offtake for 5,000 farmers.

In line with these capacity-building efforts, mid-season training has been completed for 3,919 wheat farmers across the FMAN’s 15 target LGAs in Jigawa, Kano, and Kebbi states, as at January 2021. This represents 87percent achievement of the target 4,500 farmers.

The 30 demo plots that were previously established in the 15 LGAs, specifically two in each, are being used for the farmer training, while the association is sourcing for more threshers locally to upgrade farming practices across the local wheat farms.

The procurement discussions between the supplying agents and the Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria are ongoing, while the legal framework to secure mini-warehouses in villages is being concluded to further extend the group’s support for wheat farming at the local level.

These achievements are laudable, considering the importance of smallholder farmers in boosting wheat production in the country.

One may ask, ‘Why is capacity building training for wheat farmers essential to the development of the wheat production segment in Nigeria?’

Besides, the low yields per hectare of locally bred wheat seeds, local wheat production in the country is hampered by limited irrigation infrastructure to mitigate the region’s unfavourable weather conditions for cultivation.

Similarly, access to mechanized tools by local wheat farmers also ranks high on the list of infrastructure that the farmers are missing.

Nigeria is one of the least mechanised farming countries in the world, with the country’s tractor density estimated at 0.27hp/hectare, which is far below the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommended tractor density of 1.5hp/hectare.

Nigeria is 132nd out of the 188 countries worldwide measured by FAO/United Nations in terms of the number of tractors in the country. This is one reason farming has been mainly subsistence, rather than commercial.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, needs $3 trillion to bridge its huge infrastructural gaps, according to a report by a global rating agency – Moody Investors Services.

To overturn these challenges, the local farmers need to be introduced to high yielding wheat varieties, trained on new trends in wheat farming to master advanced storage and agronomy techniques.

The objective is to arm the local farmers with useful skills and knowledge that are necessary to mitigate the impact of arid land, harsh weather conditions, and climate change, which often undermine wheat cultivation efforts in the country.

Also, these efforts would address the massive post-harvest losses occasioned by crude farming practices.

“Wheat farmers are very crucial to achieving the local cultivation target. Our intervention programmes, therefore, prioritise deepening agronomic practices in the wheat production segment by enriching local wheat farmers knowledge, supplying them with quality input as well as raising the level of research through the Lake Chad Research Institute, and the infrastructure facility available on the farmlands,” said Ashish Pande, the managing director of Crown Flour Mill Limited while speaking on the firm’s commitment and interventions in the wheat value chain.

“With the size of the population, wheat is critical to achieving food security as many of the popular food staples are made from Wheat,” he said.

“This is why we have consistently pursued the implementation of aggressive wheat development programmes through valuable knowledge acquisition that has the potential to bring Nigeria closer to achieving self-sufficiency in wheat production,” he added.

In the food segment, semolina and bread, which are sourced from wheat flour, have become staples in most households in Nigeria due to their ease of accessibility.

Hence, the consumption of the more affordable wheat foods would continue to see strong growth to overtake other food staples in terms of wider appeal at the retail and kitchen levels.

Given the outlook of healthy growth in wheat consumption locally, strengthening the local wheat production value chain is critical to feeding the growing population.

While the land is not in short supply for achieving the national agricultural policy drive, consistent investment in the sector is essential to improving farming practices in the country.

FMAN and CFM’s support for local wheat farmers, through the deployment of modern agronomic knowledge and farming infrastructural upgrade, would boost employment and productivity.

As farmers record higher productivity on the farms, they are more likely to employ more hands to thresh and carry out other pre- and post-harvest activities.

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