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Business News of Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Source: www.sunnewsonline.com

Olam, experts chart growth path for local wheat value chain

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Olam, a leading agribusiness conglomerate and parent company of Crown Flour Mill Limited (CFM), has assembled local and international development actors in the wheat value chain in a bid to stimulate higher wheat production in Nigeria. 

The agribusiness conglomerate gathered industry experts for the second edition of its Olam Green Land Webinar Series themed, “Rethinking Wheat Farming in Nigeria – Seeds I Research I Partnerships”, which held recently.

In his opening address, Mr. Ashish Pande, the managing director, CFM, said, “Olam has been encouraging innovation on a larger scale. We focus on charting novel, innovative paths that tick all the boxes in terms of providing suitable seed varieties, developing refined management processes and implementing trendy agronomic practices in the local wheat value chain. This is in addition to working with and training smallholder wheat farmers while committing the right financial resources into the value chain developmental agenda.”

Pande added that, “bridging the huge wheat production gap in the country is a journey. This stakeholder engagement is a step in the right direction. The deep investment we are making into developing suitable seed varieties for the Nigerian topography and utilizing a community-based seed enterprise will manifest in outright development of the wheat farming sector in years to come.”

The CFM boss said that Olam’s bold investment of N300 million into seed research and the introduction of a novel community-based seed enterprise that utilities the capacity of women smallholder farmer cooperatives have a strong implication on the livelihoods of the farming communities and the agenda of the Federal Government in terms of employment generation, attainment of food production self-sufficiency and food security within a couple of decades.

Tiberio Chiari, a durum wheat expert and former Head of the Italian Cooperation in Ethiopia, who was the keynote speaker at the webinar, highlighted the advantage of working with smallholder farmer cooperatives in developing the wheat value chain. Citing Ethiopia as a case study, Chiari said, “there is an economy of scale in dealing with farmers’ cooperatives instead of working with individual farmers, and stakeholders have a key role in ensuring the effective management of the process for optimum impact.”

He said quality control, suitable seed varieties, good management processes, high smallholder farmer engagement, rigorous grain bulking facilities, availability of investment funds, integrity, among others, are key drivers of success when pivoting to a community-based seed enterprise methodology.

Dr. Sall Amadou Tidiane, a senior scientist at the Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research (ISRA), provided a narrative of the Senegalese wheat value chain. He said by adopting a peer-to-peer seed enterprise methodology, the country grew from zero wheat production in 2017 to having 2,000 farmers cultivating wheat successfully in 2021.  He revealed that utilizing the deep capacity of female local smallholder farmers will spread the impact of the new high-yielding seed varieties.

Dr. Filippo Bassi, the project scientist/senior scientist, International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) and key partner in developing suitable seed varieties for the project, said the goal of Olam is to deliver over 200,000 tonnes of wheat worth $70 million while engaging/training 50,000 farmers before 2030.