The recent outcry by farmers across the country about the high cost of fertilizer begs the question as to what happened to the much advertised Presidential Fertiliser
The report said 50kg bag of fertiliser sells for as high as N8,000 as against the government approved price of N5,500. The farmers complain that at the government fertiliser sales points, the product is usually not available, but they are freely available in the open market but at high prices.
Although the farmers blamed faulty distribution chain, inefficient security measures, politicisation of distribution process and the menace of middlemen, these have always been the bane of government agricultural progra
In 2016 during the visit of the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI to Nigeria, the federal government and Moroccan government, facilitated a partnership between the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Niger
That agreement which then became known as the Presidential Fertilizer
The partnership was mandated to help achieve the local production of one million metric tonnes of blended Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK 20:10:10) fertilizer for the wet season farming, and an additional 500,000 metric tonnes for dry season farming.
Due to the discount negotiated with OCP, local blending plants were able to produce the finished product and deliver to farmers at N5,500 per bag. The blending plants are paid a blending fee of N620 per bag for their effort. Dealers who buy the bag at N5000 are allowed to make N500 as profit for each bag sold.
This arrangement by government was to effective
So far, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) has invested N107 billion in PFI with plans to invest another N114 billion this year on raw materials, logistics, contract blending costs by third party blenders, among others.
At the moment, Nigeria has 35 fertilizer plants, with an executive order to supply farmers fertilizer products at the rate of N5,500 per bag.
The good news is that the bulk of Nigeria’s large scale farmers now belong to farmers’ groups and associations which participate in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and are able to source their farm inputs including fertilizer di
But then there are still many more farmers in rural communities who are not aware of these associations and therefore cannot benefit from the Anchor Borrowers Programme. These are the people that are left at the mercy of these middlemen.
Fertilizer is an essential farm input without which Nigeria’s quest for food security may just be another pipe dream.
It is gratifying that the federal government as part of the palliatives for farmers to mitigate against the effects of coronavirus pandemic, has been distributing fertilizer to farmers across the country. What we, however, do not know is how far that can go and who would benefit.
We have observed that part of the problems we have in this country is the politicisation of government programmes. Many states refuse to key into federal government agricultural and even security programmed because of differences in political affiliations.
This has had and is still having grave consequences on the people because in most cases citizens are denied the various opportunities which they could have made use of to support their farming activities or secure themselves.
We believe that is part of the reason why the NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer is said to be readily available in most parts of the north, but the same cannot be said for large parts of the South-east and parts of the South-south despite the presence of some of the revitalised blending plants in the regions.
Given the importance of agriculture to national development, all hands must be on deck to ensure the nation achieves food security. Government should devise means of making sure farm inputs get to every farmer on time and at affordable prices whether they belong to farmers’ group or not.
Government should also ensure proper monitoring of its officials charged with the responsibility of distributing the fertilizers to ensure that they do not connive with racketeers to exploit the farmers.
There is not much that can be done until the programme expands to cover more grounds where there are more blending plants across the country. If possible in each state, there should be a minimum of 102 blending plants so that they can supply the fertilizer at a price without the traders trying to exploit the situation.
We also believe that there is nothing wrong if the present administration adopts the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme of the previous administration which was designed to deliver government subsidised farm inputs directly to farmers via GSM phones. The targeting of the farmers was based on the farmer registration exercise which was conducted throughout the country.