CWRS the high-protein wheat of choice in expanding Nigerian market

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Over the last several years Canada Western Red Spring has become the high-protein wheat of choice in Nigeria, replacing U.S. imports that once dominated the market.

“Canada is their major supplier of high-quality, high-protein wheat, and demand is growing,” says Esey Assefaw, Head of Cigi Asian Products and Pasta Technology. “But it doesn’t mean we will always be there. It’s important that Canada maintains a presence in Nigeria. U.S. wheat was replaced by CWRS so we cannot take this market for granted. Maintenance of (customer) relationships is key.”

Yvonne Supeene (left) demonstrates CWRS quality characteristics in bread dough during the technical workshop in Nigeria.

Ongoing technical support is central to this effort, Esey says. In March he was part of a Cigi technology team that included Yvonne Supeene, Head of Cigi Baking Technology and Norbert Cabral, Acting Head of Cigi Milling Technology, who visited customers in Lagos, Nigeria. There they held a technical workshop and seminar on the fundamentals of CWRS quality related to milling, baking, and the processing of noodles and pasta.

According to the UN, Nigeria’s rapidly growing population will become the third largest in the world next to China and India by 2050. Along with population growth, CWRS imports have been increasing. In 2016-17 Nigeria imported its highest amount of CWRS in the last five years, at nearly 822,000 tonnes (MT). In addition, the country imported 31,500 MT of Canada Western Amber Durum, and smaller amounts of Canada Western Red Winter and Canada Northern Hard Red totalling 17,000 MT.

“The remainder of the wheat needed by this market is low to medium protein and is from the U.S. and Black Sea region (Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan),” says Esey, adding that Black Sea wheat is inconsistent compared to CWRS but customers are becoming used to it and may find ways to improve how it performs in their processes.

About 17% of Nigerian wheat imports are currently from Canada, says Yvonne Supeene.  As a high-protein wheat, CWRS is primarily used for blending with lesser quality wheats.

“Bread is the main wheat-based end product but pasta, rice and noodles are also eaten,” she says. “This is a growing market for western Canadian wheat and the potential is huge.”

Yvonne says that the largest milling company in Nigeria is producing high-quality flour with Canadian wheat and other companies could follow suit.

Norbert Cabral, who presented customers with quality information and technical support in milling, agrees that opportunities for Canadian wheat are significant as the largest Nigerian company is also expanding its milling capacity.

“It is very important to keep supporting the Nigerian market,” he says. “I appreciate how they received us and supported us during the workshop and seminar.”

The session participants represented 85% of the Nigerian market. Other wheat classes such as CWAD and Canada Prairie Spring Red were also showcased, says Esey. He notes that pasta processing is the fastest growing food manufacturing sector of the Nigerian market. “Although CWAD is used for pasta, price sensitivity in this market may also provide an opportunity for other wheat classes such as CPSR.”

Yvonne says bakers in Nigeria face challenges such as extreme heat and rudimentary processing methods. The marketplace does not have large industrialized bakeries and the infrastructure does not support wide distribution of bread products. “The baking industry is completely different from North America. There are about 90,000 small bakeries, mixing is done by hand, and bread is produced mainly for a local market.

“Customers depend on the high protein, high quality and strong gluten characteristics of CWRS to help overcome any processing challenges,” she says. “Improvements have been made to the CWRS class in the last few years and that quality and consistency needs to be maintained.”

Cigi began meeting with customers in West Africa several years ago and last December presented new crop seminars with a Canadian industry team in Nigeria and Ghana. The most recent technical visit to Nigeria was established at that time and more visits are expected in future.