LAGOS, NIGERIA — Nigeria is forecast to import 6 million tonnes of wheat in the 2022-23 marketing year, a 3% decrease over the previous season, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The report noted that the Ukraine-Russia war contributed to the decline in wheat imports. In 2021, Nigeria imported 51% of its wheat from Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, and other Baltic countries. Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports and the effect of sanctions imposed by the EU and other Western countries have caused a surge in wheat prices.

Wheat from Russia, Ukraine, and other Black Sea countries remains the cheapest option for many millers in Nigeria.

“Many millers blend Black Sea wheat with more expensive superior wheat from the United States and Canada to produce the dough needed for bread that Nigerian consumers will eat,” the USDA said. “Wheat millers have increased the cost of wheat flour to accommodate the high price of logistics and diesel cost — many millers use generators that serve as a viable source of power in Nigeria.”

Nigerian bakeries, which are expecting a protracted Russia-Ukraine war, are exploring the options of blending wheat with cassava flour, millet flour and sweet potato flour, the USDA said.

Over the past decade, the government has pushed for cassava flour mixed in bread, hoping that the policy would significantly reduce wheat imports, the report explained. Meanwhile, the government’s cassava flour blending policy is still in play. The policy calls for cassava flour blending up to 40%. However, millers do not support the policy because cassava flour does not blend well with wheat flour to produce good-quality dough.

In another attempt to address the wheat shortfall, the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) approved the importation of genetically engineered (GE) drought-resistant wheat (HB4) from Argentina, the report noted.

The import of GE wheat is mainly for food and processing, not for planting.

“Currently, Nigeria is one of the leading African countries cultivating transgenic crops,” the USDA said. “The country has approved the commercialization of biotech cowpea and cotton. The Russia-Ukraine war has prompted Nigerian officials to collaborate with the private sector in diversifying the country’s wheat sources.”