National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has disclosed that Nigeria imported durum wheat worth N1.29 trillion in 2021, representing a 71.1 per cent increase compared to N756.92 billion recorded in the previous year and over triple the N401.31 billion recorded in 2019.
According to the NBS, durum wheat import accounted for 6.2 per cent of the total import bill recorded in the year under review, representing the second highest contributor to Nigeria’s import bill and the highest imported food it.
Durum wheat is a variety of spring wheat that is typically grinded into Semolina and used to make pasta, couscous, burger, noodles and bread, all of which are highly consumed in Nigeria.
Details of the data obtained The Trumpet from NBS showed that durum wheat imported in 2021 represented the highest in record.
The disaggregated data showed that highest wheat import for the year was recorded in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021 at N397.19 billion followed by second quarter of 2021 at N324.72 billion, third quarter 2021 (N315.17 billion) and first quarter at N258.3 billion.
NBS said the rising wheat import could be attributed to the supply gap in the country and improved demand in the domestic market, adding that the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia contributed to the surge in the prices of wheat, which further affects the global wheat supply value chain.
Nigeria would be spending more on wheat import following the war, which has further escalated the inflation level in advanced economies and by extension, Nigeria due to the country’s heavy dependence on imports.
For instance, the United States of America (USA) inflation rose to 7.9 per cent in February 2022, representing a 40-year high, while Canada recorded a 30-year high inflation of 5.7 per cent in February 2022.
Inflation also rose to a 30-year high in the United Kingdom in January 2022, just as Nigeria’s inflation rose to 15.7 per cent in February 2022 from 15.6 per cent recorded in the previous month.
NBS statement that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in April 2021 hinted that it would be adding sugar and wheat to the Foreign Exchange (Forex) restriction list, indicating that importers of wheat would no longer able to access forex from the import and export (I&E) window at the official rate.
Following the announcement, the apex bank has initiated strategic action plans to increase wheat production by addressing existing challenges in the value chain and as a result, bolster the country’s foreign reserves.
Deputy Governor, Corporate Services of CBN, Edward Lamtek, who represented the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele in Jos in November 2021, said wheat has been a major factor in the country’s exchange rate imbalance.
He added that the issue of wheat importation would be addressed through The Wheat Value Chain Intervention Programme, captured under the Nigerian Brown Revolution, which is an offshoot of the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
Lamtek said: “Wheat is the third most widely consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice. It is estimated that the country only produces about one per cent or 63,000 metric tons of the 5.6 million metric tons of wheat consumed yearly in Nigeria.
“This enormous demand supply gap is bridged with over $2 billion spent yearly on importation of wheat.