Checkoff Work in Nigeria Pays Big Dividends for U.S. Wheat Growers

African nation was the largest purchaser of U.S. wheat this year.

Published on: Oct 14, 2011

The people of Nigeria are eating more bread, pasta, cookies and crackers each year thanks in part to U.S. wheat growers and the work of U.S. Wheat Associates. It's a story that started nearly 25 years ago when the Nigerian government instituted a ban on wheat imports, devastating the country's flour milling industry. But U.S. Wheat Associates kept in close contact and when the ban was lifted in 1992, USW Assistant Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa Gerald Theus says USW was first in line to help Nigerian millers and bakers rebuild and expand.

"When the ban was lifted we already had a very great report with Nigerian millers, they came right to the United States," Theus said. "The reason they keep coming back to us is our technical assistance, our trade servicing that's made possible in part by the farmer's checkoff funds, apart from the producer just producing a good quality wheat."

Flour milling is now the second largest industry in Nigeria and it depends on high quality U.S. wheat. Theus says the Nigerians have great respect for the many years of dedicated USW service and the consistently high quality of U.S. wheat, which is why they're a loyal market.

"They have a lot of competitors knocking on their door from day to day," Theus said. "It is that technical assistance, trade servicing visits; we bring them back to the states each year for trade team visits where they go and can talk face to face with producers in the states. All of that has really has cemented a very strong and dynamic relationship between the Nigerian milling industry and U.S. producers."

In fact, USW and Nigerian millers have worked together to create new, more convenient wheat food products for Nigeria's growing urban population, and per capita wheat consumption in the country has more than tripled since 1995. People are now using flour-based products like pasta and noodles because it's a convenient, fast, on-the-go kind of food. Pasta and noodle plants are springing up all over the country. USW President Alan Tracy says it all adds up to a great success story as Nigeria is a 90% U.S. wheat market and actually was the largest purchaser of U.S. wheat during the past year, buying over $1 billion of wheat.

Kansas wheat farmer Ron Suppes, a former USW Chairman, says that makes a bottom-line difference for U.S. wheat growers. Nigeria is among the world's top wheat importing nations, importing more than 110 million bushels of U.S. wheat each year. But without the work of USW, funded by U.S. wheat growers and USDA, Nigeria might only import about $37 million bushels. It's estimated losses like that in the Nigerian market alone could reduce U.S. farm gate prices by 15 cents per bushel.

To learn more about wheat export promotion success in Nigeria and other markets