As part of efforts to ensure self-sufficiency in food production,the Federal and State governments initiated policies aimed at making fertiliser accessible and affordable to farmers, especially those at the grassroots.
One of such initiatives by the Federal Government was the revival of 18 fertiliser blending plants across the country, following a bilateral agreement signed with the Kingdom of Morocco in 2018.
However, a nationwide survey by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) across the six geo-political zones of the country indicated that although the efforts had paid off in some states, farmers and stakeholders in other states are still complaining of either paucity or high cost of the commodity.
In states where challenges still abound, the problems have been attributed to faulty distribution chain, security measures taken, politicisation of distribution exercise, lack of fertiliser blending plants or their dormancy where available, and the menace of middlemen, among others.
In the North-East for example, stakeholders interviewed said restriction of sales of certain brands of fertiliser in some states of the sub-region, had resulted in scarcity and price hike.
They however agreed that the restriction was in good faith as it was for security reason, adding however that farmers were not finding it easy securing commodity, particularly urea, even in the open market.
NAN reports that the ban on movement with fertiliser had to be imposed because ‘Boko-Haram’ insurgents were using same to manufacture Improvised Explosive Devices (IED).
Mr. Stephen Maduwa, Chairman of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Adamawa,
said the scarcity situation was worrisome because it was also affecting government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme in the state.
Alhaji Usman Bapullo, National Vice Chairman, National Association of Agro-Chemicals and Allied dealers, said that following the ban, the cost of the commodity increased by 45 per cent.
He said a 50kg bag of NPK,which used to sell for N4,300, now goes for N6,500, while Urea, which used to sell for N5,000, is now N7000.
He however said there was liquid NPK and Urea, which had not been banned, but farmers in the state were not familiar with it.
Speaking on the scarcity of the commodity, Mrs Felecia Nzomisaki , Permanent Secretary, Adamawa Ministry of Agriculture, said the state had only one ‘ailing’ fertilizer blending plant, and that the state government was looking for partners to resuscitate the factory.
She said the plant, when resuscitated,would produce thousand of tons of organic fertilizer on monthly basis for use by farmers in the state and beyond.
Also in Yobe, the restriction on sales of fertilizer on security grounds, had created scarcity of the product.
Gov. Mai Mala Buni, at a recent town hall meeting in Potiskum, said it took series of discussions between the state government and security organizations,to lift the sanction on sales of NPK fertilizer.
“As for urea fertilizer, it is still banned for sale across the state for security reasons” he said..
Meanwhile, a bag of NPK is sold for between N7, 000 and N9, 000, in Yobe,depending on the distance and availability.
NAN reports that most farmers in the state depended on liquid fertilizer, which five liters sells for N25, 000.
Farmers in Borno, the state hardest hit by activities of insurgents, are also expressing concern over high cost of fertiliser, in spite of efforts of the state government.
A cross section of the farmers who spoke to NAN in Maiduguri and Jere Local Government areas of the state, said they buy the commodities at exorbitant price in the market.
Hussaini Usman, a rice farmer at Zabalmari village of Jere Local Government Area of the state, said the high cost was affecting his production.
Usman noted that a small size bag of SSP and NPK brands of fertiliser,were sold for N2, 500 and N3, 000, as against the old price of N1, 000 and N2, 000.
Alhaji Hassan Muhammad, the Chairman, Rice Sellers and Processors Association in Borno, noted that farmers registered under the union were not accessing fertiliser being distributed by the state government.
Muhammad advocated for a review of the fertilizer distribution channels to enable more framers benefit.
NAN reports that Borno State Government had last month, distributed fertiliser, seeds and other inputs to 100, 000 displaced farmers for the 2019 cropping season.
Gov. Babagana Zulum, who spoke at the inauguration of the exercise, said the gesture was designed to assist farmers, enhance access to input , and encourage agricultural activities.
Also, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had in June, distributed fertiliser and inputs to another set of 100, 000 displaced farmers for rainy season activities in the state.
FAO’s Country Representative, Suffyan Koroma, said that the gesture was part of a comprehensive programme designed to assist farmers with fertiliser, seeds, and other inputs.
Similarly, the Nigerian Army also distributed fertiliser, seeds and tractors to resettled farming communities in Guzamala local government area of the state.
On his part,Mr Maina Binus, Programme Manager, Gombe State Agricultural Development Project (GSADP) said the high cost of fertiliser in the state was as a result of high demand.
He however told NAN that by the time the state government concluded the resuscitation of its fertiliser blending plant, the problem would be addressed.
He said state government procured 3,600 metric tons and sold it at the cost of N5,000 per bag across the 11 Local Government Area of the state.
Alhaji Sabitu Shehu, fertilizer dealer in Gombe, attributed the high cost of the commodity to increase in transportation costs from Port-Harcourt to Gombe.
He said they were now paying N520,000 per truck, as against the former N320,000.
He added that they were selling 50kg bag of NPK fertilizer N8,500 as against the N7,000 in 2018.
In Bauchi State however, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Dr Yahaya Yusuf, said farmers in the state never witnessed scarcity of the commodity this cropping season.
He said that unlike the previous years when the commodity was allocated to groups and individuals, this time, the allocation was through various farmers associations.
Also, the General Manager of Jigawa Agricultural Supply Company (JASCO), Muhammad Lana, said the state government procured 4200 metric tons of fertilizer to boost farming activities in the State.
He said the company sold the commodity to farmers at the rate N5,500, as against N8,000 to N9,000 sold by middle men in black markets.
In North-West, stakeholders expressed divergent feelings over the production, supply and distribution of fertiliser in their respective areas.
While some expressed reservations about the success of the distribution chain, others expressed satisfaction.
General Manager of Berjasfta Fertiliser Blending Plant, Bokkos, in Platrau, Mr Ossian Lugard, said the ban on importation of NPK raw materials had adversely affected the production and supply of the brand to farmers.
Lugard said that Berjasfta was the only fertiliser blending plant in the state, and was not producing at optimal capacity,largely due to the ban.
Similarly, Mr John Chindap-Wuyep, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Plateau Chapter, decried what he called, the scanty nature of supply of NPK and other brands of fertiliser,to farmers in the state..
“Our NPK, known as Tak Agro, has been coming from Kaduna State; we expect a situation whereby the NPK fertiliser that we farmers on the Plateau need, would come from our own blending plant in Bokkos., “ Chindap-Wuyep said.
In Niger, however, Mr Moses Akanet, Production Manager, Morris Fertiliser Blending Plant, Nigeria Ltd., Minna, said his company was producing fertiliser in commercial quantity.
“Right now we are producing various brands of NPK fertiliser for individual farmers, farmer groups, organisations and government,” Akanet said.
He said that the company was partnering with the Federal Government, under the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, to produce the commodity for the farmers.
Chairman, Niger chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Alhaji Shehu Galsdima, also said government had made fertiliser available to farmers in the state at subsidised rate of N5, 500 per bag, as against the market price of between N6, 000 and N7, 000 per bag.
It is a similar situation in Nasarawa State, where farmers commended the state government for distributing fertilier to them at an affordable price of N3,500 per bag.
One of the farmers in Keffi, Ali Suleiman, said distribution of the commodity had helped them a lot as it boosted food production, but called for the timely provision of the product during the 2020 farming season.
Meanwhile, some fertilizer distributors in Taraba have appealed to the Federal government to establish a fertilizer blending plant in the state.
Alhaji Maigari Waziri, one of the distributors, told NAN that one of the challenges faced in the business was the non-availability of blending plant that would enhance access to the commodity in the area.
On the other hand, Alhaji Yunusa Isa, a maize farmer said that the deregulation of fertilizer sub-sector, had contributed significantly to improved food production.
Isa said that the free market situation created for the sales of fertilizer, had guaranteed its availability to farmers as they could have access to the commodity at all times.
In North-Central, stakeholders interviewed expressed satisfaction with the efforts of the various state governments over the distribution of the commodity.
,General Manager, Katsina State Farmers Supply Company, Alhaji Abdu Kofar-Sori, told NAN that 103 bags of the commodity were distributed to each polling unit in Funtua Senatorial zone, while 89 bags were allocated to polling units in other parts of the state.
He said that out of the 35,000 metric tons, 24,000 metric tons were distributed to small scale farmers, 1,000 metric tons to large scale farmers, while the remaining 10,000 metric tons were reserved for dry season farming.
Kofar-Sori said no complaints were received from farmers on the distribution-chain or scarcity of the commodity from farmers or other stakeholders.
In Sokoto state, a cross section of farmers in Bodinga, Dange/Shuni, Wamakko and Sokoto metropolis called on the state government to ensure adequate supply of fertiliser and improvement of modalities for the distribution of the commodity.
Some of the farmers, Malam Aminu Abubakar, Umar Sani, and Samaila Haske told NAN that obtaining fertilizer at government subsidized rate, was difficult.
NAN reports that there is no fertilizer blending plant in Sokoto state, but effort is being made by the state government to woo investors.
Already, an Organic Fertiliser Plant is in the pipeline, with the state government acquiring 40 percent stake in the company, expected to produce 15,000 metric tons of fertiliser, upon completion.
Sokoto State Commissioner for Agriculture, Alhaji Arzika Tureta, said the government had procured adequate fertiliser for farmers and the second phase of the distribution would commence soon.
“We have finished the first phase of distribution to small and medium scale farmers; distribution will commence soon for the large scale farmers”
“We have ensured that politics is not involved in the exercise by forming a committee, which comprises community leaders and security chiefs in each local government area,” he said.
Meanwile, Chairman of Kano State chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN),Alhaji Faruk Rabiu, said farmers in the state were being sold fertiliser at subsidised rate of N5,500 per bag by the state Agricultural Supply Company (KASCO).
NAN reports that the Kano State Agricultural Supply Company was reactivated by the state government to produce NPK brand of fertilizer for sale at a subsidised price to farmers in the state.
“The state Agricultural Supply Company (KASCO) has a store in each of the headquarters of the 44 local government areas of the state, and the commodity has been made available by the company.
“Any farmer who wants to buy the commodity can visit any of the stores in his or her local government area, or go to the company direct”, he said.
According to him,the old system of allocating fertilizer through local government councils or ward officials, for sale to farmers, has been abolished.
“We have not received any complaints from farmers over inability to access fertilizer since the commencement of the rainy season”, Rabi’u said.
Fertiliser – 2
In South-West, stakeholders in the agriculture sector are of the view that only collaborative effort between government at all levels will enable the proper handling of the challenges involved in the production and distribution of the critical farm input.
Dr Bukola Aluko, the Coordinating Director, Osun Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, admitted that the state government was not subsidising the price of the commodity.
Aluko said government was only partnering with private companies to ensure availability of the product in the state.
According to him, the state cannot subsidise fertiliser for farmers for now because of its financial situation.
Mrs Teniade Williams, the Chairperson of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Ife East Local Government Area of Osun, said majority of farmers now buy in small quantities due to the high cost..
Williams said a bag of fertiliser now costs between N7,000 and N7,800.
Mr Kayode Akanmu, Secretary of West Agric Inputs Dealers Association (AIDA) in Osun, also told NAN that fertiliser was available, although quite expensive for farmers.
Akanmu said fertiliser dealers in the state often secured the commodity from manufacturing companies in Port Harcourt.
His counterpart in Oyo, Sulaiman Adekola, who said there is no fertiliser blending factory in the state, also lamented the high cost of the commodity.
Adekola, who is the Chairman of the Committee on Finance in West Agro Input Dealers Association, said the nearest fertiliser plant is in Lagos.
A fertiliser dealer in Akure, Ondo State, Mr Sunday Abegunde, blamed the high cost of the product on inconsistent government policies, which had resulted in uneven distribution of the farm input to farmers at the grassroots.
“Most of the big fertiliser blending plants are owned by the government and they are not functioning optimally to cater for the large population of farmers.
“The few functioning fertiliser blending plants are owned and managed by private individuals who require large amounts of money to operate,” he said.
Abegunde urged government to partner with the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), to arrive at a uniform price that would enable the private sector function effectively.
In Ogun, Secretary of AFAN in the state, Babajide Ogunjimi, expressed satisfaction with the distribution chain of NPK fertiliser in the state, describing it as quite smooth and attributing the development to a strong collaboration between the state and Federal Government,.
For farmers in Ekiti, a fertiliser blending plant would go a long way in tackling the challenges of inadequate product supply and consequent high cost in the state.
The Chairman of AFAN in the state, Mr Alagbada Adeniran, said absence of a plant was restricting access to the commodity.
He said only the state government had been assisting farmers to secure fertiliser at subsidised rate, while dealers continued to sell at market-driven prices.
However, Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Mr Folorunsho Olabode, said government was partnering a company, Tax Agro and Chemicals Limited,to sell fertiliser to farmers at a subsidised rate of N5, 500 per bag.
In South-East state of Anambra, Mr Jude Nwankwo, Programme Manager, Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) in the state,said there was no fertilizer blending plant in the state, adding that farmers sourced for the commodity through the Ministry of Agriculture, ADP, IFAD-Value Chains, FADAMA, and open market.
But In Ebonyi, farmers expressed delight over the easy access to fertilizer this farming season, considering the difficulties experienced the previous year.
The respondents said the mechanisms set up by government and other intervening agencies, ensured easy access to the commodity at affordable price.
Mr Sunday Ituma, State Programme Coordinator of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) assisted Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), said the programme profiled benefiting farmers to access the input.
“The farmers were reached through cooperative societies for easy distribution of the product and they have also accessed other farm inputs such as herbicides, rice seedlings and cassava stems, among others,” he said.
Chief Basil Nwakpu, a rice farmer in Ikwo Local Government area, said he received considerable quantity of fertiliser that helped him cultivate optimally this farming season.
“The local government leadership adequately identified the real farmers instead of the previous practice where ‘political’ farmers held sway.
“The council also eliminated the monopoly of middlemen in fertilizer distribution as it transacted directly with ‘real’ farmers,” he said.
A staff of the Ebonyi Fertilizer Blending Plant who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the plant was operating optimally,which had ensured availability of the product.
In Enugu, A farmer and manager of Obiechina Cassava Cooperate Society, Mr Godwin Abah, faulted the modalities of fertilizer distribution in the state, which,he said, favoured politicians than the real farmers.
“I started my Obiechina Casava Corporate Society in Udenu Local Government, in 2012 and had never accessed fertilizer from the government, but rather, buy from the open market.
“The modalities used by government Agriculture officials in the state is making it impossible for the real farmers to get it,” he said.
On their part, farmers and stakeholders in the South-South geopolitical zone are calling on relevant authorities to put in place, active monitoring teams that will strengthen fertiliser distribution chain across states of the federation.
Mr Ezekiel Ogbianko, Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Bayelsa chapter, said the unwholesome practice of diversion of inputs, especially fertiliser meant for farmers, was worrisome,and needed to be checked.
“Here in Bayelsa, we do not have fertiliser plant; we find it difficult to access fertiliser; even the distributors do not deal with the farmers directly.
“Our problem here is the politics in farming business; the ghost farmers with portfolio; these are our problems,” he said.
Dr Abdullahi Muhammed, the Coordinator of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Edo North Senatorial District, also expressed concern over the non-availability of fertiliser in the state.
“We are in another farming season and our farmers are encountering difficulties accessing fertiliser to boost crop yield in the state,’’ he lamented.
Similarly, Mr Etim Nakanda, Chairman of AFAN in Cross River, told NAN that farmers purchased fertiliser at the cost of N7,500 for 25kg bag of the commodity.
He said the high cost had deprived a lot of them, the opportunity of applying the input to improve on the yields of their crops.(NAN)