By Ugo Aliogo
As part of its commitment to support the development of Nigeria’s agricultural ecosystem, OCP Africa has partnered with research institutions in the country to enhance wheat production by developing a specialised fertilizer.
The organisation in a statement 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 (IAR&T)- the institute with the mandate on soil fertility; and the Centre for Dryland Agriculture, BUK- the Centre of Excellence for dryland agriculture, would proffer solutions that would increase wheat production in the country astronomically from the 2 percent being struggled to be produced.
OCP Africa, Nigeria Country Manager, Caleb Usoh, disclosed this at a two-day workshop organised to mark the commencement of the project, with the theme: “Soil Mapping and Fertility Evaluation for Formulation and Validation of Wheat specific Fertilizer in Nigeria,” held in Kaduna.
Usoh, represented by the Business Development Manager, Akin Akiwande, 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 added.
He also stated they felt challenged because of the enormity of work involved, noting that wheat production was faced with several problems which include poor access to improved seed varieties, inappropriate fertilizers and agrochemicals, poor irrigation systems and others.
Usoh further explained that as part of the strategy to develop the nation’s agriculture ecosystem, the company urged their research partners to respond to the call with them.
He appealed to stakeholders in agriculture, governments, donor, 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,” Executive Director at LCRI, Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, 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 added: “Nigeria spends about $4.7 billion annually importing wheat before the advent of 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 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 per cent in 2017.
“Wheat consumption in Nigeria is bound to increase from the present import level of $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, the Executive Director, Institute of Agric Research and Training (IAR &T), Prof. Veronica Obatolu, said for any successful agriculture, one needs to take care of the soil because soil is the bedrock for increasing yield.