How to boost wheat production

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Wheat production has fallen in Nigeria. Its total production last year was about 200,000 metric tonnes, according to the Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN). The problem was caused by harsh weather conditions and poor seed varieties.

Also, wheat imports by flour millers averaged 4.7 million tonnes yearly over the last few years, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), making local wheat production insufficient.

At the National Wheat Farmers Field Day recently in Kano, the Managing Director, Crown Flour Mill (CFM), Mr. Ashish Pande, noted that the demand for wheat is growing faster than any commodity, and that as a member of Flour Miller’s Association of Nigeria (FMAN), the organisation was committed to improving production, through adequate financing and research.

He added that the agribusiness conglomerate’s wheat development effort has led to the execution of several well-coordinated capacity building initiatives, which include bringing local wheat farmers up to speed up innovative wheat farming practices.

Pande explained: “We wish to get new technologies in Nigeria to further build on the wheat initiative. We look forward to partnering organisations across the wheat value chain to improve farmers’ yields through high-quality seeds, expanded extension services and improved access to irrigation.”

He said over 30,000 farmers had been trained and equipped through the efforts of Crown Flour Mill (CFM), Flour Millers Association of Nigeria (FMAN) and the Federal Government, to deepen the national agricultural extension scheme, especially in the wheat segment.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, explained that the Federal Government prioritises the programme, considering its implication on national agricultural productivity ad food security.

Nanono said the Federal Government is targeting 70,000 workers, adding that 30,000 of them had completed the training designed to expose them to modern farming techniques, fertiliser and chemical application.

According to him, the agricultural development effort would encourage the development of small-scale wheat processing mills to make wheat flour and other wheat products available in the market. He explained that encouraging wheat production and processing would go a long way to boosting food security and economic growth.

WFAN Chairman, Alhaji Salihu Muhammad stated that the drive of the association has introduced the durum wheat variety, one of the most cultivated varieties of the crop, and engaged the services of experienced seed scientists to accelerate wheat production in the country.

He called for the inclusion of wheat farmers in the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrower Programme (APB) because the exclusion of their members had affected wheat production.

Kano State Deputy Governor, Nasiru Gawuna said the state government had concluded plans to establish more water bodies and upgrade dams to encourage wheat cultivation and other irrigation activities.

Gawuna said the government had embarked on the rehabilitation and desalting of Watari dam and upgrade of irrigation schemes in Bagwai Local Government Area.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to supporting farmers, Gawuna urged the farmers to utilise the input distributed to them to improve their productivity.

Precisely, the agricultural extension programmes are transforming the national agriculture landscape and driving national food security. The coordinated measures taken by Crown Flour Mill, FMAN, WFAN, the Federal Government and Kano State Government are equipping farmers with modern farming techniques, crop processing and entrepreneurial skills, and would add value to agricultural produce.

Apart from contributing to training the 30,000 farmers, CFM and other members of FMAN have supported 800 farmers in Kano, Kebbi and Jigawa states. They were provided with improved seeds variety, fertiliser, chemicals and 50 threshers under a soft loan scheme designed to enhance farmer access to input and extension services.

It would be recalled that the miller’s association also recently collaborated with Oxfam and the Agricultural Research Institutes to establish wheat farming service centres in 15 LGAs in the Northern wheat-growing states.

Wheat is a popular ingredient in households, and it is critical to feeding the over 200 million strong national population. It is milled into flour which is then used to make staple foods such as Semolina, noodles, bread and biscuits. These staple foods are eaten by a larger portion of the population.

Source: The Nation Online