The National Chairman of Wheat Farmers Association of Nigeria (WFAN), Salim Muhammad, has said that certified high yielding wheat seeds are not readily accessible to wheat farmers in the country. This, he said, is a major constraint facing his members who want to cultivate.
In an interview with Daily Trust, Muhammed said wheat seeds currently used in the wheat producing states are foundation seeds. He said no company in the country produces certified wheat seeds.
His concern is coming as planting season begins this month.
He also said for the past two production seasons, wheat farmers have not received any support from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture nor the states' ministries of agriculture - except for few states like Kebbi, Kano and Jigawa whose governments support wheat production.
He, however, said his association has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Flour Mill Association of Nigeria (FMAN) which, he said, has promised to supply them with threshing machines before the end of the harvest period this year.
This, he said, is in addition to 2,000 units of 50kg bags of wheat seeds his association received from FMAN for distribution to farmers in the seven wheat producing states of the country.
Muhammad said with the commencement of farming season, the distribution of seeds to, especially first time wheat farmers, across producing states has also commenced. He added that farmers that have been into its production have saved seeds of at least 100kg bag which they were earlier advised to save in order to continue production.
Although there are numerous challenges facing the sector, Mohammad was however delighted about the expected yield and an appreciative increase in the area under wheat cultivation from last farming season compared to this year's.
"We are expecting an increase over the production of last season from 20 per cent and above. Because last season, as you are aware, we cultivated about 300,000ha and our target this season is 500,000ha," he said.
Muhammad further lamented that because of lack of mechanisation, many wheat farmers only practiced it on subsistence level using traditional farm tools which is highly labour intensive.
"Our farmers are left using traditional subsistence farming. We are advocating that government assists farmers in migrating from subsistence farming to a level of at least semi-mechanised farming. That would definitely improve the yield production output, cut the cost of production and consumers of the end product would get the commodity at a very reasonable price," he said.
He identified ready market as another major challenge to wheat producers in the country but expressed optimism with the newly signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between his association and the Flour Mill Association of Nigeria.
The MoU, he said, would ensure that all the excess wheat produced in the country is bought by FMAN at a guaranteed minimum price favourable to both parties.
At present, Daily Trust reports that 100kg of wheat is sold at between N19,000 and N22,000 in the markets, especially in the wheat producing states.
In Katsina, 100kg of wheat is sold for between N20,000 and N21,000 while in Kano State it is sold for N18,000 and N19,000 depending on the market. It is also within the same range in Jigawa and Kebbi states.
The chairman of the wheat farmers also confirmed to Daily Trust that the price of the produce has crashed from N35,000 last year to about N18,000 to N20,000 this year.
He said the price is poor but accommodating as farmers would not run at a loss considering the economic cost of production per hectare.
The chairman, who identified late planting and poor quality seed as main reasons why some areas record poor harvests, also stressed the need to fund researches to develop higher yielding varieties.
"Up to now, the seeds that we are sowing only yield 4 tonnes to 5 tonnes per hectare, while countries like India are producing 8 tonnes to 10 tonnes per hectare. There is no seed company in Nigeria that can tell you I have 10 bags of certified wheat seeds, we are still using foundation seeds as material to plant," he added.