NIGERIA – Nigeria plans to produce 875,000 metric tonnes (MT) of wheat for the country’s food reserve on over 70,000 hectares across the wheat-producing zones in the country.

Speaking at a media briefing on the way forward for the Nigerian agriculture sector, Abubakar Kyari the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security outlined measures set by the state to re-engineer agriculture and achieve the food security mandate of President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

Among the immediate interventions is the implementation of the dry season wheat production starting in November as part of the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro Pocket (NAGS-AP) projects funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The scheme, according to the minister is expected to produce 875,000 metric tonnes of wheat.

Minister of State, Agriculture and Food Security, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, said the government is making efforts to reclaim lands lost to terrorists for the purpose of farming.

Kyari, who had insisted that hunger remained one of the country’s major challenges, said part of the plan was to also fund the production of improved seeds, boost support for smallholder women farmers across the country, make agriculture attractive to youths, and drive mechanization of the sector.

Nigeria, with a population of about 217 million people, has the largest market in Africa. Despite its substantial arable land area, the country is one of the largest importers of wheat in Africa

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the country spends billions of dollars each year on imports to meet the growing demand, which was expected to reach 6.06 million tons in the 2022-23 season.

However, in the recent forecast, the FAS projected a production of 156,000 tonnes of wheat for 2023-24, up 42% from 2022-23, from a harvested area of 130,000 hectares, an increase of 30%.

The forecast follows that the government of Nigeria has collaborated with relevant stakeholders in both the private and public sectors to increase local production as well as boost the country’s wheat value chain.

Minister Kyari noted that the immediate priority of the government was to guarantee the country’s food security even before talking about exporting to other countries.

He said under the new dispensation, the enumeration of smallholder farmers would be key to properly channeling government interventions.

He said the package also included the blending of appropriate fertilizers to support this year’s dry season farming while making provisions for next year’s farming season well in advance.

During the same briefing, Minister Kyari listed the immediate, short, medium, and long-term measures that the government seeks to dive into to ensure food security.

The short-term priority actions (2023 – 2024) seek to make significant investments in animal feed crops, fodder, and pasture production as an antidote to the farmers and herders.

By focusing on the development of paddocks, foliage, and fodder estates equipped with necessary facilities for all year-round production, the minister said this would strengthen agriculture and food security institutions, repositioning them for the tasks ahead.