Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa and a significant oil producer, is intensifying efforts to reduce its dependence on imported wheat. The disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have underscored the vulnerabilities of relying on foreign wheat supplies. The government is now committed to increasing domestic grain production to enhance food security.
In a recent grain market report published on June 23 by the International Grains Council (IGC), Nigeria’s total grains production for the 2022-23 season was estimated at 21.6 million tonnes. This figure was revised up from the previous month’s forecast of 21.1 million tonnes. The IGC also reported the country’s maize crop at 12.5 million tonnes, revised up from 12 million forecasted a month earlier but slightly down from the previous year’s 12.7 million.
Sorghum production was estimated at 7 million tonnes, remaining unchanged from the earlier estimate, and slightly higher than the previous year’s production of 6.7 million tonnes.
Despite these efforts to boost domestic grain production, the country’s total grains imports for the 2022-23 season were forecasted at 6 million tonnes, the same as the previous month’s report. This was an increase from the previous season’s 5.8 million tonnes. Wheat imports were expected to reach 5.9 million tonnes, consistent with the earlier forecast but up from the previous year’s 5.7 million.
Nigeria’s grain processing sector is highly concentrated, with major players like FMN, Olam, Dangote, Charghoury, and Honeywell controlling significant market shares of 32%, 24%, 19%, 11%, and 10%, respectively. Smaller millers collectively account for 4% of the market.
The 2022-23 rice crop was estimated at 5.4 million tonnes, remaining unchanged from the previous report. In comparison, the previous year saw 5.3 million tonnes of rice production. Nigeria was anticipated to import 2.1 million tonnes of rice, consistent with the previous estimate but higher than the 2 million tonnes imported the year before.
To bolster domestic wheat production, Nigeria has made considerable strides. An annual attaché report from April 7 indicated that the country would produce 160,000 tonnes of wheat in 2022-23, up from 90,000 tonnes in the previous year. Rainfed wheat cultivation in Nigeria’s highlands, including Gembu (Taraba State), Jos (Plateau State), and Obudu (Cross River State), has shown promise. The government, along with the African Development Bank and researchers, is actively supporting these efforts, aiming to achieve self-sufficiency in wheat production.
The Central Bank of Nigeria has played a pivotal role through its Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP), collaborating with the Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN) to expand wheat production from 5 states to 15 states. The bank provides loans to support farmers and supplies them with heat-resistant seeds imported from Mexico.
Private companies such as Olam Flour Mills, in conjunction with research institutes like the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), have initiated a 10-year community seed project (heat-tolerant variety) with a budget of N300 million ($720,000) to boost wheat production in Nigeria’s northern wheat farming belt.
Nigeria has also approved imports of the proprietary drought-tolerant HB4 wheat variety developed by Bioceres Crop Solutions in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nigeria’s growing population and urbanization are driving an increase in wheat consumption, making it the third most consumed grain after corn and rice.
Although these efforts are promoting self-sufficiency in wheat production, they come with challenges. Nigeria’s flour milling sector is highly consolidated, with companies importing over 50% of their wheat requirement from Russia and other Black Sea countries. To mitigate domestic wheat flour prices and maintain profitability, Nigerian flour mills often blend cheaper, lower-quality wheat with more expensive high-quality wheat from the United States.
The attaché forecasts a 3.5% increase in Nigeria’s wheat consumption for the 2022-23 season, reflecting the country’s population growth and evolving consumption patterns. However, challenges such as the scarcity of foreign exchange and high operational costs pose significant hurdles for the grain and flour industry in Nigeria.
Nonetheless, Nigeria’s determined efforts to enhance domestic grain production and reduce reliance on imported wheat are steps in the right direction toward achieving food security and self-sufficiency.