About 5,000 farmers in Kaduna State are set to undergo training on wheat cultivation, as part of efforts by the government to diversify the economy through agriculture.
Declaring the training workshop open, the state Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, said the programme was aimed at creating employment for the people as well as reducing poverty and youth restiveness in the state.
The governor, who noted that the north had the capacity to feed the entire nation through massive agriculture, however, lamented that such God-given potentials were underutilised due to overdependence on crude oil revenue and white collar jobs.
The production of wheat in the country is said to be about 300,000 metric tonnes a year, a sharp contrast to the 4.2 million metric tonnes required to keep their factories in operation.
According to the Executive Director, Lake Chad Research Institute, Dr Oluwasina Olabanji, who was represented at the occasion by a senior official from the institute, Dr Dominic Anogie, the average grain yield for wheat in the country is above 2.0 tonnes per hectare, although research has shown that this can be easily tripled if proper varieties and crop management is adopted.
Governor El-Rufai, while calling on the youths to embrace agriculture, said his administration would provide the trainees access to land and other incentives.
He added that the state had the capacity to excel in agriculture even as he announced that plans were underway to get seeds for 50,000 hectres in 2017 for wheat farming.
Some of the trainees and stakeholders were of the opinion that with more farmers going into wheat production, it would reduce the amount being spent on importation of the product annually.
They also identified their major challenges in the state as farm inputs, improved seedlings and access to finance and market, which they want the government to address at the end of the training.
The poor production level of wheat in Nigeria has put the cost of importation of the crop at a staggering 635 billion Naira i.e about $4 billion annually.
The state government believes that by providing over 50,000 hectres of land for its cultivation, it would go a long way in reducing the importation of wheat into Nigeria and also improve the economy.