Importation of durum or pasta wheat into Nigeria has continued to skyrocket, rising from N730.9 billion in 2020 to N1.295 trillion in 2021.
The Punch’s calculations from the National Bureau of Statistics Foreign Trade Statistics showed that wheat importation into Africa’s most populous nation rose 77.23 per cent from 2020 to 2021.
Wheat is an important commodity which serves as flour in the production of pasta, bread, noodles, among others.
Economists said the difference in the two years could be attributed to the devaluation of the nation’s currency and insecurity that led to little or no production in the northern Nigeria for a number of years.
Naira devalued by over 15 per cent in the official market and over 20 per cent in the parallel market in the two years, but insurgents and bandits in the north have also sacked farmers of wheat and other crops, leading to supply chain disruptions.
“If you imported with $1m in 2020 and you imported with $1m in 2021, the amount of money would not be the same in naira in the two years due to naira devaluation,” said the Chief Executive Officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf.
He said apart from currency depreciation, the country had not succeeded in growing wheat, noting that the Central Bank of Nigeria was making efforts to bolster the growth of the crop by asking flour millers to invest in backward integration.
“But we have not made much success. Some players acquired massive plots of plans to embark on backward integration but while they were trying to do that, insecurity and community issues started,” Yusuf said.
But Chairman of the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria, Lagos State chapter, Raji Omotunde, said wheat importation was so high due to low productivity, noting that bakers were suffering due to high wheat prices.
“Millers have been increasing their prices. The price of a 50 kg bag of wheat has risen from over N20,000 to N27,000. The price of a 50kg bag of sugar has also risen from N22,000 to N26,000. Diesel price has also risen. We are not increasing prices because bread is something everybody should afford, and we have been so considerate about that,” he said,
Wheat prices have risen by over 60 per cent this year due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine account for one-thirds of global wheat exports. Countries like India are rumoured to be planning to ban wheat exports due to uncertainties in the global market, and Nigeria will likely bear the brunt.
Omotunde said, “Since war started, there is nowhere to get wheat. It is having an adverse effect on Nigeria and there is shortage.”
Former President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Kabir Ibrahim, told The PUNCH that the CBN recently brough 13,000 wheat seeds which it distributed to farmers.
He said things were changing as Nigeria was making efforts to be sufficient in wheat, noting that though concentration of the Anchor Borrowers Scheme was more on rice than wheat, things were beginning to look up for wheat farmers.
The United States Department of Agriculture’s April 2022 report said Nigeria’s import dependence could be costly at this time.
“On the international front, the conflict in Ukraine could threaten Nigeria’s food security posture. Nigeria imports low quality wheat from Russia and other surrounding Black Sea countries. The escalation of the crisis could lead to increase in wheat import prices, which could have a multiplier effect on the price wheat-based products – most importantly breads, noodles, and biscuits.”
An economist, who did not want his name mentioned because he was not authorised to speak, said the wheat numbers in Nigeria were driven by volumes and not value, noting, however, that the Russia-Ukraine crisis could see a reduction in import volumes into Nigeria.