Why uncertainties continue to mar Nigeria’s sorghum prospects

As industrial demand for sorghum continues to mount, the strength of Nigeria’s sorghum production has come under crucial delivery tests which it appears to find overwhelming.

More users are earnestly shifting attention to the local market, away from high-cost grains to the less expensive sorghum flour foods, and as such food, starch and industrial (FSI) consumption projections have grown from 6.3 million tonnes recorded the previous year to about 6.6 million tonnes.

The optimism is strong among many sorghum growers that the country could ramp up production not only to fix local demands but grab its share of the international export revenue. However, rising social uncertainties in growing regions leave much in doubt as poor mechanization, accessibility of improved hybrid seed variety, and the most inimical threat of resurging terrorist attacks top the list of encumbrances in the way of raising output targets of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, beyond the 12.5 million thresholds.

Sorghum, a drought-resistant grain used in the food and brewing industry, as well as livestock feed is cultivated mainly in the northern states of Bauchi, Borno, Zamfara Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa, Kaduna, Jigawa, Niger, Kebbi, Taraba, Plateau, Sokoto, Katsina, and Nasarawa but in the wake of renewed insurgency attacks, farmers have been rendered short of land for cultivation, a fundamental destabilising factor to shoring up production.

Sanusi Gulya, Sorghum Millet Association of Nigeria, SMAN secretary affirmed that growers in the northeast areas have been displaced and were beginning to target new forest areas for cultivation.

“Most of our sorghum activities are within the areas attacked by terrorists. We left thousands of hectares where sorghum is produced at a very large cheaper rate because up there you can plant without issues in Gamboru, Gala, Baga and other areas. We have left with many internally displaced farmers in Kano. There is fierce competition from herdsmen and houses sprouting all around the place. We are left with no option than to go and activate some forest,” he explained.

The challenge he believes may not compare to the mechanisation gap shrouding the production processes as preponderant use of manual soil tilling remain the practice due to the dearth of adequate farm implements. Like many other crops, sorghum yields are reduced by the low availability of improved seeds which pares yields per hectare.

“The variety of sorghum we are using is of low yield but we are trying to bring in improved and high yield seeds. An average yield of sorghum is about two tonnes per hectare. We are not trying to intimate farmers with varieties which can yield up to 10 tonnes,” Gulya said.

A handful of local industrials, including flour mills like Honeywell, he said, have expressed high interest in off-take yields continue reading

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