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Nigeria spends N258.3bn importing wheat in first quarter 2021

Nigeria has spent N258.3billion on wheat importation in the first three months of this year, despite the government’s continuous push to drive local production, data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) trade report shows.

The commodity, which is the third most imported good for the period accounted for 3.77 percent of total imports, mainly imported from Lithuania and Latvia – countries known for producing poor-quality wheat.

Africa’s most populous country has failed to grow more food for its fast-rising population that favours a wide range of options from rice, beans, tomatoes, and maize, among others.

This has forced the country to spend millions of dollars yearly importing food, thereby putting pressure on Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves and exporting thousands of jobs it would have created when the products are grown locally.

Key food staples such as semolina, bread, noodles, and pasta among others produced from wheat flour now form a regular part of meals in most urban and rural households across the country and this has driven the surge in wheat importation.

Despite being a major market for a species of wheat known as ‘hard red winter’, the country only produces 400,000 metric tons per annum, a figure that is 3.6 million short of total demand, according to data from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.

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.

Efforts at boosting local wheat production in recent years have been obstructed by the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-Eastern region of the country, as wheat farmers in Borno, the country’s major producing state had abandoned their farmlands and fled to other regions for safety, while some took residency at the Internally Displaced Person’s (IDP’s) camp.

“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 but now the state has been contributing nothing,” said Saleh Mohammed, president, Wheat Growers Association of Nigeria.

Other top agricultural imports for the period included edible mixtures or preparation of animal and herrings (clupea haregus, clupea pallasii).

On sectoral basis, agriculture accounted for 9.20 percent of total imports within the period with a N630.2 billion while export accounted for N127.2billion.

The United States Department for Agriculture in its 2020 grain report for Nigeria predicted that the country will heavily rely on grain imports in 2021, owing to the impact of the pandemic, FX devaluation, and insecurity issues that cut 2020 food production output.

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