Looters of wheat seeds scuttle national production, says agric minister
Minister of Agriculture Muhammad Sabo Nanono has declared that the recent looting of National Agricultural Seeds Council at Bukuru, in Jos, Plateau State, has scuttled Federal government wheat production strategy targeted to improve food security in the country.
Over 15,000 metric tonnes of wheat seeds were carted away by suspected hoodlums who invaded and vandalized the warehouse under the guise of search for COVID-19 palliatives. The ugly development further depleted the country’s foreign reserves being drained on the importation of wheat.
Nanono, who spoke at the opening of the Wheat Stakeholders Forum in Kano, stressed that despite various measures put in place to boost wheat production, reduce the import bill and making available various classes of seeds to wheat farmers, the recent phenomenon had caused the country a 40 years setback in wheat production.
The minister, who was represented by a director at the ministry, Hajia Karimatu Babbangida, explained that the meeting with the theme, “Transforming Wheat Production in Nigeria through Increasing Synergies and Adopting New Technologies” is expected to review the current status of the subsector, identify the challenges and opportunities, proffer solutions to these challenges, as well as chart a roadmap for wheat development.
“As you are all aware, availability of improved seed is a major challenge in the sub-sector. Therefore, the Ministry procured 30 MT of breeder seeds which will translate to 1,650 MT of foundation seeds, 50 MT of Foundation seeds which will also translate to 2,500 MT of Certified seeds and 326 MT of certified wheat seeds which will give 11,410 MT of grains in the 2020/2021 season.
“This effort was expected to result in the addition of 15,560 MT of wheat to the national food basket. However, this expectation was caught short when hoodlums invaded and carted away these seeds at the warehouse of the National Agricultural Seeds Council in Bukuru, Jos, Plateau State where the seeds were stored. This ugly incidence will not deter us from our commitment to support our wheat farmers”.
General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Olam Nigeria Limited Yahaya Bunkure disclosed that industries spend billions of dollars on the importation of wheat to meet increasing demand due to poor seeds and diminishing yielding capacity currently stands at 1.5 metric tons per hectare instead of an average of 4 metric tons per hectare.
He revealed that Olam has supported Federal government national wheat production with N20 million intervention funds for growers in the North, added that Nigeria needs to demonstrate more political will to earnest its self-sufficient potential in wheat production.
The national production of wheat as at 2020 is 420,000 metric tons while the national consumption is 5.26 Million MT.
Available data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) indicated wheat import bill from 2016 to June 2020 is about $6 billion.