SENEGAL – The government of Senegal plans to reduce its wheat imports by at least 40% over the next five years, an initiative that the executives hope will reduce the bill dedicated to future cereal purchases.

This was revealed by Momar Talla Seck, director general of the National Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA) on November 2.

Data compiled by the National Agency for Statistics and Demography (ANSD) indicate that Senegal’s wheat imports totaled 754,000 tonnes in 2021 at a total cost of 149.3 billion CFA francs (US$248 million).

As part of this ambition, ISRA’s interventions focus on the development and supply of sufficient quantities of wheat seeds adapted to local climatic conditions with a view to allowing the cultivation of the cereal in the country.

In Senegal, wheat is the second most consumed cereal after rice, recognized as key to accelerating the achievement of national food security, production self-sufficiency drive, and the broadening of the state revenue channels.

According to the state, the segment keeps rising in relevance owing to a huge household pivot to consuming non-traditional, wheat-derivative foods such as bread, semolina, pasta, and pastries

However, despite the high appetite, the country’s tropical climate is not naturally suited to wheat forcing the state to import 800,000 tonnes of grain per year.

According to Mr. Seck, ISRA has already succeeded in registering 8 varieties of wheat and is also working on other varieties that are under development.

“While waiting to have our own certified seeds, the process of which is underway, we are providing operators with seeds imported from Egypt. These were tested and gave interesting results with yields of 6 tonnes per hectare,” said Seck.

If so far the experiments carried out by ISRA have been carried out on an area of ​​approximately 5 hectares, the official adds that the next step will consist of the executive stimulating the cultivation of the cereal on a large scale.

In April, ISRA harvested four varieties of homegrown wheat on a demonstration plot in Sangalkam, the latest step in a years-long effort to reduce reliance on imports.

The move marked ISRA’s establishment of a wheat trial project aimed at releasing high throughput and adaptable seed varieties for smallholder farmers to tackle the worsening wheat importation situation in Senegal.