OCP Africa, a global leader in the production and exportation of phosphate-based fertilizer, in its avowed commitment to support the development of Nigeria’s agricultural ecosystem has partnered with research institutions in Nigeria to grow wheat production by developing a specialized fertilizer for wheat.
It said the partnership with The Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI- the institute with the mandate to improve wheat production in Nigeria; The Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IART)- the institute with the mandate on soil fertility; and the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, BUK- the Centre of excellence for dryland agriculture will proffer solutions that will increase wheat production in Nigeria beyond the abysmal 5 percent of the local consumption.
OCP Africa – Nigeria Country Manager/Deputy Managing Director, Caleb Usoh, represented by the Business Development Manager- Mr. Akin Akinwande disclosed this over the weekend at the two-day inception workshop organized to mark the start of the project, “Soil Mapping and Fertility Evaluation for Formulation and Validation of Wheat specific Fertilizer in Nigeria”, held in Kaduna.
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Usoh said they took the mandate to grow local Wheat production after the Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture beckoned on it in 2020 for assistance with soil testing. This subsequently led to the development of bespoke fertilizer for about 142,000 hectares cleared for wheat production in the Birnin Gwari area of the state.
He said they felt challenged because of the enormity of work involved as ‘’Wheat production in Nigeria is faced with several problems which include and may not be limited to the following: poor access to improved seed varieties, inappropriate fertilizers & agrochemicals, poor irrigation systems, lack of funding for wheat research systems and poor knowledge of wheat agronomy’’.
He said on the realization that it was a call in the right direction for the phosphate fertilizer giant, and as part of the strategy to leverage collaboration to develop the nation’s agriculture ecosystem, the company called on their research partners to respond to the call with them.
He also calls on all stakeholders in agriculture – governments, donor and developmental agencies, farmers, and the farming community, to support the laudable project that requires collective efforts to achieve the desired result.
In his paper presentation on the Status of Wheat Research and Production in Nigeria, Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, Former Executive Director at LCRI said, Nigeria requires 5.1 million tons of wheat grain annually, but presently produces only 300,000 metric tonnes (2017) and thus depend on imports to meet the huge deficit.
He said, “Nigeria spends about US$4.7 billion annually importing wheat before the advent of the wheat value chain in 2013 and support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops (SARD-SC) in Africa funded by African Development Bank. The intervention of these projects in twelve (12) states of Nigeria, which included: Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Kano, Jigawa, Katsina, Gombe, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna, and Plateau reduced the importation of wheat by 30 percent in 2017.
“Wheat consumption in Nigeria is bound to increase from the present import level of US$5.1billion between now and year 2050 due to growing population especially at the urban cities if proactive actions are not taken.
In her remarks, Prof. Veronica Obatolu, Executive Director, Institute of Agric Research and Training (IART), Ibadan said for any successful agriculture, one needs to take care of the soil because soil is the bedrock for increasing yield.
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She said they have done a lot of research on crop variety genetic improvement and have observed that farmers are not getting what they are supposed to get which is bad because the soil has not been taken care of as the first foundation for successful farming.
‘’So, this project now is addressing that, so that we will be able to be crop-specific; test the soil and see what is milting within that soil, because each of the crops needs different nutrients and by testing the soil in different local governments, and different areas, we will be able to determine what that particular soil lacks within a particular community and how we can mix the fertilizer to make inputs to be able to benefit the wheat farmers’’, she asserted.
Representing the President of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria, Salim Mohammed, the Kano State acting chairman, Musa Shehu Sheka, said they are happy about the event as it is solely for them.
He said the current capacity of wheat production in the nation is very poor when compared to other countries like Sudan, Brazil, and others where they produce nine tonnes per hectare every year, but in Kano, it is not more than two to three tonnes per year that are being produced.
On how the programme will increase the quality of wheat production, he said when the soil is tested, we are going to have a result and that is what is going to inform the fertilizer to be applied.