Many farmers in Kano State are now reaping the benefits of wheat production, recording huge successes this year with the recent official launch of the harvest season by the state government.
Wheat (Alkama) production in northern Nigeria dates back to centuries in the Nigeria-Sudan belt and before the construction of large-scale irrigation dams in the 70s, wheat was being produced on a modest scale. With time, the demand kept increasing and its cultivation heightened in the region despite farmers’ ill-equipped status.
However, due to the fact that internal demands couldn’t be met, importation of wheat became the order of the day. Moreover, food importation has been described as a serious drain on the nation’s foreign exchange. For instance, in 1976, Nigeria imported 730, 000 tonnes of wheat at the cost of N97million which at that time was a serious cause for concern. As a result, the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the administration of General Ibrahim Babangida which sought to address the nation’s economic problems devised some strategies to tackle the problem under the Wheat Production Programme (AWPP).
According to Alhaji Dauda Baba, a wheat farmer in Kano, through macroeconomic policies enshrined in SAP aimed at boosting wheat production to the level of self-sufficiency, the AWPP programme recorded a tremendous achievement. He added however that along the line, the whole process was discarded and the nation went back to wheat importation with more resources committed to it.
Nigeria now requires 4.2 million tonnes of wheat per year as announced by the Lake Chad Research Institute. Different figures have been given by various authorities on the amount of foreign exchange required to meet required wheat imports to Nigeria. While some put it at $6billion, others believe more is needed. The Lake Chad Institute says Nigeria presently produces about 600,000 metric tons (12.2% self-sufficient), and still imports to meet the huge deficit which gulps US$4.0billion annually.
With the present government’s economic diversification programme, about 75, 000 farmers have been targeted to benefit from the agricultural anchor borrower programme in Kano State. It was gathered that though there were complaints of late distribution of inputs, the yields recorded during this year’s wheat harvest season has been remarkable.
“The last time I saw wheat grown in such huge quantity was during the days of Babangida when the then SGF, Chief Olu Falaye came to launch the harvesting of wheat in Kano State. The main concern here is that can we sustain this positive development?” said Dauda Baba.
An agricultural merchant, Malam Abdu Iro, said while wheat farmers are indeed having a good time, it is one thing to record bumper harvest and it is another thing entirely to sustain the tempo.
To sustain the positive record achieved, the state Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Alhaji Nasiru Yusuf Gawuna, said to address the financial constraints and sustain the bumper harvest, it is necessary for the state government to come to the farmer’s aid. According to the commissioner, the Kano State government has established a warehousing system that will be spread across various locations in the state where farmers will register to keep their produce and also have access to interest-free loans pending the appreciation of the produce in the market.
“Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has approved N50 million as part of the state government’s commitment to see that we give them the necessary support to sustain their farming business. A lot has been done to see that farmers move from subsistence agricultural practice to commercial agriculture and it is the government’s duty to ensure sustainability of the positive development so far achieved, more so, the millers association has pledged to buy all the wheat produced,” said Gawuna.
Under the new programme, farmers will have the opportunity to access the market when the price of their produce appreciates, with the support of interest-free loans to attend to their needs.
Credit: Daily Trust