The Executive Director of Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Dr Oluwasina Olabanji has said that the initial target of Nigeria becoming self sufficient in wheat production by 2017 may no longer be feasible as a result of the insurgency in the northeast.
In an exclusive interview with The AUTHORITY, the Executive Director explained that wheat which is mainly grown in Kano, Borno, Kebbi, Jigawa states suffered a major setback owing to activities of insurgency attacks which slowed down production
"Honestly, we have been unable to grow our wheat in Borno State for the past four years, and Lake Chad Research Institute having the national mandate for the genetic improvement of wheat in Nigeria, we acquired 60 hectares of land in Borno and that area is suitable for wheat production, look at the soil, the soil is very unique, very rich in organic fertilizer, in fact, in terms of irrigation, instead of five days interval of irrigation, the irrigation to our wheat is about a week interval, that means the soil is able to retain enough moisture for the growth and development of our wheat.
"But for the past four years, we were unable to exploit Borno State for our wheat production, so have been moving from one state to another, three years ago we were in Gombe, last year we were in Zamfara where we acquired 30 hectares of land for our research work and also for seed production, this year, we are in Kebbi State where the governor gave us 30 hectares of land and we have planted the 30 hectares for seed production and also establish 15 trials of wheat”.
He however disclosed that the institute has been able to expand the cultivation of wheat to other states which has helped reach a 35 percent reduction in wheat importation as well as a 7.6 percent growth towards self sufficiency.
Dr Olabanji further explained that with consistent policies and the political will demonstrated by the present government, Nigeria will in the next five years be able to produce adequate quantity of wheat to meet her demands
"In terms of the monetary value, Nigeria spends N635 billion annually importing wheat into this country, and this amount have been reduced to 30 to 35 per cent which is worthwhile, and with this pilot project we are doing in these marginal areas, we have extended these pilot project to additional eight states, apart from the traditional wheat production states, we are now in Nasarawa, Abuja, Ondo, Edo, Ebonyi and Niger state.
"So we are covering 21 states now for wheat production in Nigeria, so that within the next five years, if we are able to identify suitable materials for these marginal areas which is possible", he said.