OCP, others push to boost wheat farmers’ productivity

OCP Nigeria Fertilisers has partnered with the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IART), and Bayero University Kano (BUK) in a major move to raise national wheat production and boost farmers’ productivity.

According to stakeholders, Nigeria’s wheat production was 55,000 tons in 2020, which they described as dismal to boost economic growth.

They noted that the country’s wheat production has increased from 7,000 tons in 1971 to 55,000 tons in 2020, growing at an annual average rate of 11.83 percent yearly.

Hence, OCP Africa is partnering with research institutes mandated on wheat to develop special wheat fertiliser that would ensure the maximum yield of crops per hectare.

Donald Madukwe, head of agronomy, OCP Nigeria Fertilisers Limited said the new fertiliser formulation has been tested on farmer’s fields invalidation trials in a large number of locations. The goal, according to him, is to get farmers who plant improved wheat varieties and follow recommended agronomic practices to harvest more tons per hectare in high-potential wheat-growing areas.

So far, characterising soils in wheat production belt to determine limiting nutrients based on which new fertiliser formulations are developed have taken place, he said.

He explained that the new specialized fertiliser when formally launched would reach a high number of farmers thanks to effective teamwork between the various stakeholders.

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He added that private companies will be invited to produce the new fertiliser formulation in order to bring the benefits to farming communities.

He reiterated the organisation’s mission to support research for agricultural development, adding that the company is determined to make a major contribution to the modernisation of the agricultural sector and agro-systems by improving methods and systems to boost the competitiveness of the country’s agriculture.

According to experts, wheat farmers in Nigeria numbered about 700,000 nationwide could begin to earn an additional N400, 000 per hectare, approximately N210 billion from next year, going by interventions introduced by OCP Fertilisers Nigeria Limited.

The move will also increase projected yield beyond 450,000 metric tons annually forecasted by the Wheat Growers Association of Nigeria.

Experts said a wheat farmer makes around N350, 000 per hectare after deducting costs of production.

Speaking also, Oluwasina Olabanji, former executive director, Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, Borno State, said the goal is to enable farmers to increase yield and earn at least N400, 000 more per hectare.

He explained that Nigeria requires 5.1 million tons of wheat grain annually, but presently produces only 300,000 metric tons and thus depends on imports to meet the huge deficit.

According to him, Nigeria spends about $4.7 billion annually importing wheat.

He added that wheat consumption was bound to increase from the present import level of $5.1billion between now and 2050 due to the growing population especially in the urban cities if proactive actions are not taken.

He stated that OCP’s support to the research institutes on developing speciality fertiliser formulation to achieve wheat self-sufficiency by expanding production in the irrigable areas and increasing productivity in the rain-fed agro-ecologies would boost food security.

Meanwhile, global wheat production is expected to reach a new record of 780 million tons in 2021, according to a preliminary forecast issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).