Nigeria’s Crown Flour Mill, the wheat milling subsidiary of Singapore-based agribusiness major Olam, achieved the first-year targets of a NGN300 million (US$690,000) programme by producing 10Kg of pre-multiplication wheat seed varieties that suit the unique local topography and climate. The Olam-sponsored Seeds for the Future programme seeks to do just that.
According to Filippo Bassi, a professional seed breeder from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and consultant on the project the 10 Kg pre-multiplication wheat seed varieties will be planted next season on a 1,000 sq meter plot at the Azumbu farm research station in Jigawa. To ensure larger quantities of seeds as backup, a subset will also be planted during the rainy season in August. Wheat was traditionally grown in temperate zones, but new seed technology makes cultivation in hotter tropical weather possible.
Domestic wheat production accounts for less than 10% of the country’s 5.7 million tonnes annual demand, making it heavily reliant on imports, which has become more expensive as a result of a weakening local currency and high logistics costs. Production has also been impacted by inadequate fertiliser and irrigation application as well as insecurity in the traditional wheat-growing areas of Nigeria.
Nigerian flour millers and bakers have absorbed much of the increased wheat costs as consumers are already under pressure from general inflation. According to the World Bank, monthly year-on-year food price inflation in Nigeria averaged more than 19% in the six months to July 2022, against a backdrop of high global fuel and agricultural input costs.
Ashish Pande, the country head for Olam Agri Nigeria, says the Seeds for the Future programme aims to boost wheat cultivation in Nigeria and reduce reliance on imports. A survey conducted by Olam revealed a need for early-maturing, fast-growing wheat varieties and financial support for wheat production in Nigeria to take off. According to Pande, it will take a while to deliver meaningful results, but he expects the programme will double local production in Nigeria in five to six years.
Despite its immense agricultural potential, Nigeria remains a net food importer, bringing in about US$8bn worth of food and agricultural products every year. A 2020 report by PwC highlights a shortage of value-addition activities owing to low yields, lack of financing for small-scale farmers and inefficient transport systems. To address this, the African Development Bank is co-financing the creation of special agro-industrial processing zones (SAPZ) in Nigeria. SAPZs concentrate agro-processing activities within areas of high farming potential. They are purpose-built shared facilities to enable producers, processors, aggregators and distributors to operate in the same vicinity to reduce transaction costs. By bringing adequate infrastructure – including energy, water, roads and ICT – to rural areas, they aim attract investment from private sector players.
‘Current state of Nigeria agriculture and agribusiness sector’, PwC, September 2020
‘Nigeria: Federal and state governments endorse Special Agro-industrial Processing Zones Programme’, African Development Bank, 01 September 2021
‘Agricultural research: Meeting Nigeria’s food security needs’, CNBC Africa, 06 December 2021
‘Food and agricultural import regulations and standards country report’, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, 31 March 2022
‘Report seeks urgent action to save Nigeria’s wheat value chain’, The Guardian, 26 May 2022
‘FG, AfDB moves to revolutionise Nigeria’s wheat value chain’, ThisDay, 06 September 2022
‘Crown Flour Mill’s (CFM) ‘Seeds for the Future’ programme achieves first-year target, raises optimism’, Olam, 15 September 2022
‘Food Security Update’, The World Bank, 15 September 2022