Government policy on foreign food importation have been abused by importers
Importers are expected to take delivery of 2.55million tonnes of Hard Red Winter (HRW) and Soft Red Winter (SRW) wheat valued at N254.8billion ($566.1million). Major importers of the grain are Flour Mills of Nigeria, Dangote, Honeywell, Olam and Seaboard Group.
A large portion of the grain would be imported from United States and Russia between July and December, 2020. Out of the expected bulk cargo, three vessels will ferry 108, 210 metric tonnes of wheat to Lagos Port complex this week with Desert Dignity leading with 52134 tonnes, Desert Oasis, 36, 819tonnes and Baltic Panther, 19,257 tonnes.
The massive imports have defied Federal Government’s objective of reducing foreign food importation into the country as consumption of the grain has gone up to 4.76million tonnes, while production has consistently remained at 60,000 tonnes. A tonne of wheat is $222 per tonne as at July, 2020 because of the competition between Russia and United States.
In 2019 marketing year, imports from Russian was totaled 1.9million tonnes, compared to 1.7million tonnes imports from U.S. Last year, imports to Nigeria from United States, Latvia, Canada and Argentina were valued at N25.9 billion, N22.6billion, N15.2 billion and N13.98billion respectively.
Also, it was gathered that wheat imported from the United States was valued at N8.95billion, while Russia supplied N5.9billion and Lithuania, N5.5billion. Data by the United States Department for Agriculture revealed that a 367,000 tonnes increase in purchase of various wheat brands from the US.
The country ordered for 936,000 tonnes of wheat as at October, 2019 as against 569,000 imported in 2018 in the same period. It added that Nigerian market demand for wheat was valued at $1.2billion in 2016; $1.5billion in 2017; 2018, $1.65billion and 2019, $1.7billion.
Worried by the huge import of the grain, the National President of the Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN), Alhaji Salim Mohammed, said that lack of quality seeds had been the major challenge of the crop in Nigeria. Salim noted that if the government could finance research institutes to come up with new varieties every two years, it would sustain production and keep the farmers in business.
Despite the corona virus pandemic, the importers have brought some 2.48million of the grain through Lagos, Tincan, Rivers and Calabar ports. In February alone, USDA said that the country ferried 132,800 tonnes, noting that about 168, 690 tonnes were shipped to Lagos Port complex and Calabar Port.
Meanwhile, the current deficit experienced in the country has hindered the Federal Government’s plans to cut wheat importation by 60 per cent by 2025 as the country failed to produce 1.5 million tonnes locally per annum.
Government had said in 2012 that it would increase national production from 300,000metric tonnes to about two million metric tonnes per annum by 2019. However, it has failed to meet domestic production as consumption grew from 4.8 million tonnes in 2017 to 5million tonnes in 2019.
It would be recalled that wheat farmers in Kano State have entertained fear that they may likely experience shortage of wheat this year as they could not have access to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.