Nigeria is set to displace Japan as the biggest buyer of United States wheat, so says U.S. Wheat Associates Inc., a trade group for the world’s largest exporter of wheat.

Africa, led by Nigeria, will show strong growth and that nation may become the top buyer, Steven Wirsching, director at the group’s West Coast office in Portland, US, told Bloomberg yesterday.

Japan is currently the top export market for the U.S. grain, followed by Nigeria, Mexico, Egypt, the Philippines and South Korea.

“The markets that are really growing are located in Africa. Nigeria’s per capita income is growing and they are consuming more food and they are looking for more Western-style food products,” Wirsching said yesterday after a seminar with South Korean clients.

Wirsching said further that U.S. wheat exports might advance in 2010-2011 after Russia halted exports and buyers increased purchases.

“Wheat buyers are purchasing cargoes further ahead to ensure that they receive supplies of the staple as prices climb,” said Wirsching.

Wheat has climbed about 43 percent since the end of June as global supplies declined on adverse weather.

Russia’s worst drought in at least 50 years prompted the government to ban exports in August through to next July 1, driving prices higher and forcing importers to seek alternative supplies.

One reason that demand for U.S. wheat shipments are climbing “is reduced supplies from the Black Sea region, primarily from Russia. Also, as prices rise, buyers start to buy it further ahead, so they will be assured of getting wheat supplies,” Wirsching said in Seoul yesterday.