WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Wheat consumption in Nigeria is forecast at 4.632 million tonnes in 2016-17, up nearly 14% from 4.070 million tonnes in 2015-16, according to an Oct. 25 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Consumption in 2017-18 also is forecast higher, at 4.66 million tonnes.

The USDA attributed the increase in wheat consumption to higher prices of other major locally grown crops, a situation that has led consumers to seek out wheat as a cheaper grain alternative.

Consumption of rice in 2016-17 was estimated at 5.281 million tonnes, down 12% from 6 million tonnes in 2015-16, the USDA said.

“With Nigeria’s market remaining price-conscious, the weakening purchasing power of consumers is expected to continue to impact grains consumption negatively,” the USDA noted in its report. “Limited Government of Nigeria (GON) support to farmers, inadequate basic infrastructure, rising cost of farming inputs and insecurity are hampering agricultural development and productivity in the country.”

While domestic production of wheat in Nigeria remains small at about 60,000 tonnes per year, wheat imports in Nigeria for the 2016-17 marketing year are forecast at 4.972 million tonnes, up from 4.410 million tonnes in 2015-16. The United States accounts for about 40% of Nigeria’s wheat imports, but because of the higher protein content of U.S. wheat and subsequent premium that wheat commands, the growth rate of U.S. wheat market share in Nigeria has been flat, the USDA noted.

“To be competitive, millers in Nigeria have continued to blend the higher quality U.S. wheat with the less expensive, lower quality wheat from other countries, including Russia,” the USDA noted. “However, more discerning youthful consumers are also increasingly requesting better quality products, which can only be achieved from high quality wheat flour. As a result, Nigerian millers are increasingly seeking wheat flour specifically for pizza, pasta, dough, etc. These wheat flour-based products are relatively new to the Nigerian consumers but the demand for the products has been growing steadily over the past decade.”