In this report, BODE GBADEBO unravels the menace of adultrated and fake fertiliser brands in the country and how small-scale farmers are losing their means of livelihood due to failed crops yield especially in the rural centres.
For a young farmer like Mr Austin Ezethi, who resides in Bachita in Kwara State, the fear of using adultrated fertiliser is the beginning of wisdom. His fears are not far-fetched. He lost his life savings as a result of what he called “failed crops”, due to the application of adulterated fertiliser in the last farming season.
With a heavy heart, he narrated his ordeals to this reporter, recounting his loss after all he invested in his farm business went down the drain as a result of patronising sellers of substandard and repackaged fertiliser, which he bought from Kano.
“I usually do small farming. But, I decided to expand my farm last year. So, I sold my car, took a loan from my bank to raise more capital to invest in farming.
“I bought fertilisers, thinking it was a good product, not knowing that it was adulterated. I have no laboratory to test the quality of the product just like other small farmers. It came in the same bag, looking very similar to the product I once bought. My projection was to get bumper harvest that should increase my yields by about 40 per cent and securing my investments with profit. But, what I got was loss upon loss. The fertiliser failed and did not boost the growth of my crops,” he narrated.
When asked whether the problem could be due to his own negligence and not the fertiliser quality, he said: “I’m an experienced farmer. I have been in this business for over two decades. I’m not the only farmer who suffered this. Many of my colleagues incurred huge losses because we bought the fertiliser from the same market.”
“Even the experts we collectively consulted to assist us when we first saw the symptoms on our plants also said the problem was not in the application of the fertiliser but in the quality. They said the fertiliser had been mixed and the quality is compromised. This is the work of greedy middlemen who mix all sorts of things with little fertiliser to make huge profit.
“We are already getting reports from our colleagues, who suffered loss as a result of the kind of fertiliser they bought and applied on their farms. We plead with the government to come to our aid and save our means of livelihood and support agricultural growth and food security in the country,” he added.
zethi might be licking his wounds alone, but he is not alone with a sour taste in his mouth, hence the need for quick intervention by the government in order save the innocent farmers from incurring undue losses, even as the situation is also a threat to the nation’s quest for food security.
The 2018 rainy season has commenced already, small-scale farmers in both urban and rural areas are in a dilemma over what to do – either to take unjustiable risk or abandon their trade – given the prevalence of adultrated or fake fertiliser brands in the market, a development that reduces crops yield and ultimately threatens their means of livelihood.
LEADERSHIP Friday’s findings revealed that with the farming activities in top gear for the year, hope of a bumper havest by farmers is not guaranteed given their experience in the previous year.
Farmers, who spoke to our reporter, expressed fears and concerns about the 2018 farming season regarding the unabated sale and circulation of fake fertilisers in the country, saying that they may be in for another disappointment concerning their hope of a bumper harvest.
An agricultural expert, Francis Musa, who spoke to LEADERSHIP Friday, underscored the importance of fertiliser in boosting crops yield, noting that it must however be safe and of high quality in order to produce desired result.
“Assuming the yield of a year is supposed to be one ton per hectare without fertiliser. With fertiliser it would yield about 1.4 to 1.5 tons per hectare, which is about 40 to 50 per cent. In some cases, it could be more depending on other factors such as improved seeds and so on. Just as the rainfall is key to huge harvest, so is quality and safe fertiliser.
“We cannot underestimate the importance of quality and safe fertiliser in agriculture. Because farmers stand to benefit a lot, while improving food security in national interest. But, if adulterated fertiliser is used, the yield of crops could be greatly affected, opening the door for food scarcity and increase in price of food produce,” Musa said.
He added that there is a need for a legislation that will ensure strict compliance to best practices in fertiliser production, prohibition of adulteration and stringent sanctions against violators of the law, noting that, “this will help in protecting farmers, and promote agricultural development at large.”
It will be recalled that the Fertilizer Producers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) with support from Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) under the Micro Reform for Africa Agribusiness (MIRA) had organised workshops and meetings on different occasions that brought stakeholders in the agricultural sector together to brainstorm on how to tackle adulteration of fertiliser, especially through Fertilizer Quality Control Bill (FQCB), which provides a legal framework for maintaining quality production of fertiliser and ensuring that the fertiliser industry maintains the necessary standards.
LEADERSHIP Friday further learnt that the Bill has been tansmitted from the House of Representatives to the Senate for concurrence and other subsequent legislative procedures preceding its passage into law and eventual presidential assent.
The Bill provides a legal framework that stipulates strict compliance to best standards in fertiliser production, prohibits re-bagging and adulteration of fertiliser.
“It therefore, is in the interest of poor farmers, who are losing their investments and whose means of livelihood is under threat by circulation of adulterated fertiliser that the National Assembly should pass the Bill without further delay,” Musa concluded.
A source at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, who did not want his name in print because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, also told LEADERSHIP Friday, while speaking on the adulterated fertiliser menace and its dangers, that the pasage of FQCB was vital to agricultural development, food security and protection of farmers from falling victims of using substandard fertilisers.
However, according to a report recently released by the Africanfertilizer.org, housed by the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC) with support from International Fertiliser Industry Association (IFA) and other partners, fertiliser uptake by Nigerian farmers has increased by 63 per cent in 2017, rising from 959,364 metric tonnes in 2016 to 1,564,816 metric tonnes which was largely due to the effort of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), an idea of the present administration and funded by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
“With these huge amounts of fertiliser coming into our market, we need legislation like the FQCB that ensures that producers adhere strictly to best practices, prohibit adulteration of fertilizer by middlemen, compensate farmers who suffer loss due to and checkmate other sharp practices by middlemen who mix all sorts of things with little fertilizer to increase quantity, make gains at the detriment of poor farmers.
“As it is, no farmer, commercial or subsistence, has a laboratory to test the quality of the fertilizer they buy. This makes them vulnerable to infiltration of adulterated fertilizer. But, if there is a legal framework like the FQCB, we can be sure that what we are getting is quality. We can be sure of bumper harvest as quality fertiliser is key to agriculture like rainfall. As rainfall is important to bumper harvest, so is quality and safe fertilizer,” the source said.
In spite of the efforts of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) in reviving fertiliser companies in Nigeria, so that farmers can buy fertiliser at cheaper rates, it is not yet uhuru, so long the Fertilizer Quality Control Bill, which seeks to regulate the proper production and distribution of fertiliser, is not passed into law.
Further findings show that in countries like Morocco and India, there are laws that prohibit fertiliser adulteration. It is an offense that attracts 14 years jail term and huge fines. Nigeria, therefore, should not be an exception.
As such, many farmers like Austin Ezethi, who have lost huge investments with their means of livelihood – commercial farming – under threat, can only hope that the National Assembly passes the Fertiliser Quality Control Bill soon for the eventual assent of President Muhammadu Buhari in order to save millions of lives that are currently at risk of the menace of adulterated fertiliser.