Nigerian millers and Kansas farmers make the perfect match

Posted September 19, 2014

Instant noodles may not be the meal of choice outside the K-State campus, but in Nigeria, they are an increasingly popular source of nutrition for more than 170 million people. Combined with bread, cookies and crackers and pasta, per capita consumption of wheat foods in Nigeria has more than tripled since 1995, according to U.S. Wheat Associates (USW).

Photo: Nigerian crop team visits Kansas Wheat Innovation Center.
For Kansas wheat farmers, that means Nigerian millers need lots of high quality wheat — specifically Hard Red Winter (HRW) wheat. On average for the last five years, Nigeria imported about 94 million bushels of HRW.

Nigerian flour is used predominately to make a dense, high volume loaf of bread. While Nigerian milling companies are some of the largest in the world, the baking sector is small-scale and disorganized. The Lagos Master Baker’s Association alone claims more than 18,000 active members.

This means Nigerian flour millers are looking for wheat able to withstand variable conditions and produce the same high quality loaf of bread time and again.

HRW wheat is a great match. Muyiwa Talabi, marketing consultant in the USW office in Lagos, Nigeria, said, “Kansas produces is a valued wheat with high consistency and good protein.”

In addition to bread, Nigerians eat more instant noodles than anyone else outside of Southeast Asia. Why? Because as more Nigerians move from rural areas to urban ones, they are looking for a more convenient, nutritious food source. USW, with assistance from Kansas Wheat, helped introduce this product in the market.

Today, instant noodles made with HRW wheat are so popular that every milling company produces them, even though the product was a foreign concept just a decade ago. Indomie, the largest producer of instant noodles in Nigeria, can make up to two million boxes of instant noodles every month.

From the Bottom to the Top

Nigeria has not always been a wheat purchasing powerhouse.

In fact, the Nigerian government banned the important of wheat in 1986 as part of an effort to encourage local farmers to grow wheat. The effort failed due to the tropical climate and lack of infrastructure. In 1992, the ban was removed.

Today, flour milling is now Nigeria’s second largest industry — behind only oil.

Finding the Future Together

The United States dominates the Nigerian market, but that does not mean there is not increasing competition from other world exporters like Canada and Australia.

Kansas HRW wheat also faces competition from the inclusion of cassava flour — made from the starchy tuber that is the base for tapioca — as part of a government mandate hoping to support local farmers. However, a lack of high quality supply and bread formulations has inhibited mills from displacing significant amounts of wheat.

That is why Kansas Wheat, together with USW, continually works to strengthen the relationship between Kansas wheat farmers and Nigerian flour millers through annual trade team visits and specialized courses at the IGP Institute. Through these activities, Nigerian millers know Kansas farmers will have the wheat they want, year after year.

“Thanks to the relationships built in Nigeria and between the farmers, USW and Nigerian millers on teams like these, U.S. wheat has found a home in Nigeria,” said Gerald Theus, USW assistant regional director based in Cape Town, South Africa. ”And it is there to stay.”

by Julia Debes