From Christiana Gokyo, Jos
President Muhammadu Buhari has flagged off the first ever commercial wheat cultivation in Nigeria at the Wheat Seed Multiplication Farm in Kwall, Bassa Local Government Area of Plateau State with a charge to the nation’s farmers to embrace wheat farming and stop the import of the product which gulps over $2 billion annually.
The President, who was represented by the state governor, Mr. Simon Bako Lalong at the launch, noted that the agricultural sector is one of the critical non-oil sectors which have made significant contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) accounting for a 22.35 and 23.78 per cent contribution to the overall GDP in the first and second quarters of this year respectively.
According to him, a key focus of his administration is deployment of mechanisms to ensure that agriculture thrives in the country to significantly grow the economy and achieve maximum welfare for the citizens by ensuring food and energy security.
He said the nation is on the path to actualizing sustainability in the production of rice, maize, cassava, soybean, groundnut, oil palm and cocoa, adding that very soon the breakthrough in wheat cultivation in the country would be accomplished.
He lamented that the country still spends humongous amounts of money on wheat import which is not acceptable because the country has the capacity to meet domestic consumption demands and also export.
According to him, it is important to stress that the country currently spends over $2 billion on the importation of wheat annually, one of the key contributors to the nation’s huge foreign import bill.
“This is because millers have had to resort to importing wheat to meet the huge demand for wheat by-products, wheat cultivation, similar to rice has the capacity to thrive in Nigeria due to the tropical climatic conditions and currently, wheat is cultivated in many Northern states particularly in the dry season due to the high heat tolerance of the seed utilized by farmers,” he noted.
The President expressed excitement for the flag-off of the 2021/2022 dry season wheat farming, noting that wheat could also be grown in the wet season in the state as research also showed that it could be cultivated in other Plateaus in the country, namely, Gembu Plateau, Taraba State and Obudu Plateau, Cross River State.
He urged those states to take advantage of the opportunity and key into the initiative.
The President also commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for using the Anchor Borrowers Programme not just in the Agric Value Chain, but in almost all sectors of the economy as shown in the recent launch of some transformative initiatives like the 100 for 100 policy for production and productivity.
On his part, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, represented by Deputy Governor, Mr. Edward Lamtek Adamu said in order to change the situation and leverage domestic production to bridge the demand-supply gap in the country, the bank decided to add wheat to the list of focal commodities to be supported under the bank’s agricultural intervention programmes.
He said improved seed varieties of high yielding varieties from Mexico with potential average yield per hectare of five-seven metric tons as against a range of 0.8-1.8 metric tons yield per hectare of those varieties previously cultivated, have been acquired for distribution to farmers.
While assuring that the two-pronged approach of seed multiplication and grains production which has been adopted, is expected to sustain the propagation of seeds and guarantee availability of high-yielding seeds to farmers.
According to him, the event heralds the commencement of the Brown Revolution Journey, which is the first major wet season wheat production in the nation with about 700 hectares put under cultivation in Kwall, Kassa, Jol, Kafi Abu and Sop in Jos, Plateau State.
According to him, the CBN will not rest on its oars as they continue to work with their partners, Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), to expand the frontiers of wheat production in the country to areas like northern Oyo, Kogi and Kwara States.
The state Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Hosea Finangwai, Gbong Gwom Jos, Da Jacob Buba, President of Wheat Farmers Association, Alhaji Salim Muhammad, and the DG Lake Chad Research Institute, all commended the initiative by the Federal Government. They said the people need to own the process by ensuring that middlemen do not hijack the initiative for profit, leaving them to wallow in poverty.