Amid the prediction by the International Grains Council (IGC) that global wheat production is expected to fall this year, the first time in six years, there are indications that the fate of the country’s 600,000 tons of wheat production is in jeopardy as glut and low return of investment (RoI) trail wheat farmers’ productivity in Nigeria.
The intergovernmental group, in its first forecast for wheat output next season, pegged it at 742 million tons, a drop of 35 million tons year-on-year. Based on this forecast, the Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN) is groaning that the 600,000 tons of wheat production cultivated last year is facing tumult challenges following huge glut in the market, which is no longer favourable for them as their profit margins decline.
WFAN National President, Salim Muhammad, in a chat in Lagos, disclosed that their massive investment in wheat production is not yielding result amid the glut in the market, which is bringing about low RoI.
According to him, the association is pointing accusing fingers at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) for abandoning wheat farmers in the country since Chief Audu Ogbeh’s assumption of office as minister in charge of the ministry.
Muhammad lamented that wheat farmers had not been assisted with interventions that could boost their productivity despite efforts by government to diversify the economy.
“Last year, we cultivated about 600,000 tons of wheat nationwide and, unfortunately, farmers were left with their produce as the market wasn’t favourable and they couldn’t sell at what the market offered then.
This development has indeed affected this year’s wheat production and from all indications, the production will be lesser than that of last year,” Muhammad said. While noting that more farmers had taken to wheat farming, he lamented that many wheat farmers in Kano State had not embarked on farming this year due to their inability to sell last year’s produce. He disclosed that even though wheat production level currently stood at 30 per cent, there would be a slight drop in production level this year.
Muhammad also lamented that the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) mandated by the Federal Government to facilitate wheat production in the country had failed to provide certified seeds to farmers for three consecutive years.
“To us wheat farmers in Nigeria, LCRI is dead, because it failed in discharging its mandate to the extent that wheat farmers have to rely on seeds obtained from the market,” he said.
A look at the IGC report indicated that the international agency failed to expand on the details behind its 2018-19 wheat harvest forecast, which would represent the first decline in output since 2012-13, although the council has pencilled in a small decline in area.
Early market expectations are for broadly flat output in the European Union, the top producer, with Paris-based Strategie Grains this week pegging this year’s harvest at 141.6 million tons, down 400,000 tons on the 2017 result. U.S. officials last week estimated domestic winter wheat sowings at their lowest in 109 years, although well above market expectations, while there is some support for an idea that Russia will be unable to match in 2018 the record crop it achieved last year.