July 30 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria, which spends $10 billion a year importing wheat, sugar, rice and fish, plans to boost domestic food production by 20 million metric tons by 2015, according to the country’s agriculture ministry.
Rice output will climb by 2 million tons in the period, while sorghum will advance by 1 million tons, Akinwunmi Adesina, the agriculture minister, said at a conference in London today. The country also plans to boost cassava production by 17 million tons in a bid to reduce its reliance on wheat imports.
Nigeria was the third-largest importer of U.S. wheat in the 2011-12 marketing year that ended May 31, when the country took 3.25 million tons, 11 percent less than in 2010-11, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Japan and Mexico were the top two importers of the grain for 2011-12, according to the USDA data.
“We spend $4 to $5 billion dollars a year importing wheat,” Adesina said in an interview at the conference. “We have to make sure we create jobs for our farmers, not for farmers in the countries which we are importing from.”
Nigeria imposed a 65 percent levy on imports of wheat flour to encourage increased use of cassava flour as a substitute. The levy, which took effect from July 1, is in addition to the 35 percent duty charged on wheat flour imports, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the finance minister, said on July 12.
The West African nation plans to cut wheat imports by 40 percent by 2015 as it encourages the use of high quality cassava flour to make bread, Adesina said. The country has imported machinery from China to build 18 plants to process cassava into high quality flour, bringing cassava flour output to 1.4 million tons a year.
“It’s got to have an impact on the price,” Edward George, a soft commodities specialist at Lome, Togo-based lender Ecobank Transnational Inc., said in an interview at the conference. He was referring to wheat futures traded in Chicago.
The raw sugar duty of about 5 percent may be increased, as Nigeria plans to expand its sugar cane output, Adesina said, declining to comment on when changes would take place. Raw sugar accounts for about 98 percent of the country’s sweetener imports.
Nigeria plans to double its cocoa production by 2015 to 500,000 tons by rehabilitating plantations and expanding into new areas, according to Adesina. The nation will have distributed 114 million seeds of eight cocoa hybrid varieties by the end of the year, he said. These trees will yield 2.2 tons a hectare (2.47 acres), compared with the current 0.4 tons a hectare, he said.
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