Stakeholders attending the International Conference on Wheat in Abuja, Nigeria lauded the recent successes in reducing wheat importation to Africa and have pledged more support. The stakeholders spoke during the conference organized by the AfDB funded SARD-SC Wheat project of ICARDA that was held from February 27th to March 2nd 2017 to take stock of current efforts on reducing wheat importation burden for the continent and the impact that has been realized by scientists and private sector working through the project. The conference was attended by top wheat scientists and NARS leaders from 15 African countries, senior policy makers, AfDB officials, private sector representatives (millers, input suppliers, financial institutions, service providers) government institutions, model wheat farmers and partner CGIAR centres (IITA, ICARDA, CIMMYT and IFPRI). During the official opening, chief guest Hon. Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, the Kebbi State Governor who is also the leader of the 'Presidential Taskforce on Wheat and Rice' acknowledged the impact that scientists working through the SARD-SC project have had in releasing heat tolerant varieties with better agronomic packages that have led to increase in wheat productivity from an average of 1.5t/ha to above 3.5t/ha at the national level. He however challenged stakeholders to provide scientific data on comparative production costs of wheat in various African countries and their competitors from the global market to enable policymakers to make policies that do not penalize local wheat farmers and actors in the wheat value chain.
“If we have no research that informs policymakers about the totality of support that is given in countries, with whom we are competing and from whom we are importing, we are likely to continue penalizing our wheat value chain,” Hon. Atiku stated.
Speaking at the same event, Hon. the Federal Minister for Agriculture for Nigeria Chief Audu Ogbeh ably represented by the Federal Director of Agribusiness and Marketing in the Ministry Dr Muyiwa Azeez, commended the project for supporting the release of four high yield varieties of wheat, two irrigated and two rain fed for Nigeria. The Minister noted that after 40 years of trials, Nigeria now has high yield wheat varieties that meet the end use quality and this is thanks to the SARD-SC project.
The Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture Sen. Abdullahi Adamu said that SARD-SC as a whole had a remarkable impact on the Agricultural sector in Nigeria and the national assembly was repositioning agriculture by formulating robust legislations to support the sector. The Director of Agriculture at AfDB Dr. Chiji Ojukwu noted that the current level of food importation into the continent is unsustainable and that the Bank in its new vision is looking at an integrated multi-sectoral value chain approach to address this. He added that the Bank’s vision for wheat is to increase the productivity to 4.4 t/ha and increase of land under wheat to 17.4 million ha by 2015. To realize this, the Bank and partners will commit up to USD 850 million to transform African agriculture through the TAAT (Technology for African Agricultural Transformation) initiative.
The ICARDA Deputy Director General Dr. Andrew Noble, representing the Director General Aly Abousabaa said that through SARD-SC wheat project, ICARDA has developed a successful model, a scalable consortium approach that could transform agriculture in the continent.
The Executive Chairperson of the Flour Millers Association of Nigeria (FMAN) John Coumantaros represented by Dr. Nino Ozara on his part reiterated commitment of FMAN to support wheat production in Nigeria. “A practical demonstration of this commitment is our ongoing pledge to offtake all wheat produced in Nigeria, and this pledge has been sustained even for the 2017 harvest of wheat, of which we have begun discussing modalities for offtake,” Dr. Ozara added.