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A don, Abdulsalami Zakari, has called for increased millets production in Nigeria to improve food security.
Zakari, a Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, noted that millet is an important staple food for most people, urging for national and states development plans to boosts millet production to ensure food and nutritional security for the population.
Millet is consumed by most households, especially in the North, and is used by various industries.
In recent years, millet production has decreased dramatically in Nigeria. Nigeria imported millet (excluding grain sorghum, and seed for sowing) valued $545,000 last year, according to the International Trade Centre (ITC) statistics.
Also, millet seed for sowing (excluding grain sorghum) valued at $ 40,000 was imported last year. The value of imports of commodity group 1008 “Buckwheat, millet and canary seed; other cereals “to Nigeria totalled $ 13.3 million in 2019. Zakari noted: “Its production is not widespread unlike other cereals like maize or sorghum or rice. I think some of the measures that can be taken to increase production are encouragement of farmers to use improved high yielding varieties and supporting technologies like fertiliser and pesticide. Thus, the yield can be substantially increased.’’ This can be achieved through rigorous extension messages/campaigns such as on-farm demonstrations and easy access to the improved seeds and other inputs and promotion of uptake of research findings on industrial uses of millet by food processors. This would create more demand thereby stimulating more production. The Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) in Maiduguri, Borno State has developed many food recipes that food processors can develop further.”
Zakari stressed the need for renewed focus on boosting the production of millets and highlighting their benefits.
He demanded a perspective action plan to enable stakeholders take action quickly to achieve the target.
Analysts said farming of millets deserves encouragement especially in view of their climate resilience, short cropping duration and ability to grow on poor soils, hilly terrains and with little rain.
The other reason is that millets score over rice and wheat, whether in terms of vitamins, minerals and crude fibre content or amino acid profile.
Estimates show that more than 90 million people in Africa and Asia depend on millets in their diets. Africa accounts for more than 55 percent of global production, followed by Asia with nearly 40 percent, while Europe represents around three percent of the world market.
The United Nation General Assembly’s recent adopted a resolution proclaiming 2023 as the International Year of Millets in March.
The resolution called on stakeholders to support “activities aimed at raising awareness of and directing policy attention to the nutritional and health benefits of millet consumption’’.