Nigeria’s Imported Wheat Worth N1.29trn In 2021 as domestic farmers output wane 89.44 per cent

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Nigeria’s foreign trade data, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that Nigeria imported durum wheat worth N1.29 trillion in 2021, representing a 71.1% increase compared to N756.92 billion recorded in the previous year, and more than triple the N401.31 billion recorded in 2019.

According to the NBS report, durum wheat import accounted for 6.2% of the total import bill recorded in the review year, representing the second-highest contributor to Nigeria’s import bill and the highest imported food item.

Durum wheat is a variety of spring wheat that is typically grinded into semolina and used to make pasta, couscous, bulgur, noodles, and bread, all of which are highly consumed meals in Nigeria. A further look at the data shows that durum wheat imported in 2021, represents the highest on record.

The disaggregated data shows that the highest wheat import for the year was recorded in Q4 2021 at N397.19 billion, followed by Q2 2021 (N324.72 billion), Q3 2021 (N315.17 billion), and Q1 2021 (N258.3 billion).

The surging wheat import could be attributed to the supply gap in the country and improved demand in the domestic market. However, the recent invasion of Russia in Ukraine has sent the prices of wheat to record high, further affecting the global wheat supply value chain.

Meanwhile Wheat production in Nigeria has crashed by 89.44 per cent, dropping from about 350,000 metric tonnes annually to as low as 36,943.8MT, the Federal Government has said.

Data from the latest report of Wheat Production Survey in Nigeria 2021, which was obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics, showed that the 36,943.8MT was produced in 13 states.

In November 2021, The PUNCH exclusively reported that the national production of wheat had been around 350,000MT since 2017, according to a report from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The FMARD had disclosed this in its report on Recommended Strategies to Improve Wheat Value Chain in Nigeria, presented at the 2021 Wheat Stakeholders Workshop.

But the NBS in its Wheat Production Survey in Nigeria 2021, seen in Abuja on Sunday, put the amount of wheat produced in 13 states across the country at 36,943.8MT.

Industry operators told our correspondent that the rise in the cost of bread and pastries, triggered by the hike in flour price, was due to the low domestic production and high imports of wheat, a major raw material for flour used in baking.

The NBS, however, stated that wheat farming was experiencing renewed interest from policymakers who saw Nigeria’s potential to be self-sufficient in wheat production.

“But as vital as wheat is, we cannot say with certainty the actual quantity of wheat produced in the country as conflicting figures were being published from different sources,” the bureau stated.

It added, “There has been no recent survey or study to estimate the wheat production in Nigeria. The last official estimate of the wheat acreage is 60,000 hectares and dates back to 2008.

“Much has changed since then, and this study provided an overview of the current wheat production in Nigeria. The wheat production survey was conducted across 13 states in Nigeria covering 2020/2021 farming season by the NBS.”

The bureau analysed wheat production in 13 northern states and concluded that the crop was cultivated in an area of about 11,820 hectares with production of 36,943.8MT of grain across the identified states.

It outlined the states to include Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Bauchi, Kaduna, Gombe, Yobe, Katsina, Plateau, Sokoto, Zamfara, Borno and Adamawa.

It said the maximum area under wheat cultivation was in Kano (19.68 per cent), followed by Jigawa (17.69 per cent), while Zamfara accounted for the least (1.62 per cent).

Similarly, state wise comparison of wheat production for 2021 showed that Kano was the major producer of wheat, with a production of 6,512.8MT; followed by Jigawa, 5,854.8MT; Kebbi, 4,422MT; while Zamfara ranked last with 672MT.

Nigeria could be spending more on wheat import following the war, which has further escalated the inflation level in advanced economies, and by extension on Nigeria due to our dependence on importation.

For example, US inflation climbed to 7.9% in February 2022, representing a 40-year high, while Canada recorded a 30-year high inflation of 5.7% in February 2022. Inflation also rose a 30-year high in the UK in January 2022. In the same vein, Nigeria’s inflation rate also rose to 15.7% in February 2022 from 15.6% recorded in the previous month.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in April 2021, hinted that it will be adding sugar and wheat in the FX restriction list, indicating that importers of wheat will no longer be able to access FX from the I&E window at the official rate.

Following the announcement, the apex bank has devised strategic action plans to increase wheat production by addressing existing difficulties in the value chain and, as a result, bolstering the country’s foreign reserves.

Deputy Governor, Corporate Services of CBN, Mr. Edward Lamtek, while representing the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele in Jos in November 2021 said that wheat has been a major factor in the exchange rate imbalance in the country.

The governor also added that the issue of wheat importation would be addressed through the wheat value chain intervention programme captured under the Nigerian Brown Revolution, which is an offshoot of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).