High cost of fertiliser, a threat to food security

Farmers in Nigeria have bemoaned the high cost of fertiliser and expressed concern that the situation is threatening food security in the country.

The farmers who expressed their worries in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in the South-South, said government withdrawal of subsidy had aggravated the situation.

They called on the government to intervene and adopt measures that would ensure that the product got to genuine farmers to guarantee an increase in food production and food security.

The Chairman, the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) in Delta, Chief Sylvanus Ejezie, said fertiliser and agrochemicals which aided farmers to achieve good produce had become too exorbitant.

He told NAN in Asaba that the push and efforts by the government to address food insecurity would not be realised in the near future unless urgent steps were taken to address the rising cost of the product.

He said that government subsidies on fertiliser had been hijacked by “political farmers” who presented themselves as middlemen between fertiliser companies and the farmers.

“We source our fertilisers from Onitsha market because there is a fertiliser plant in Delta State.

“The prices of fertiliser and agrochemicals have risen so high that we cannot afford the quantity that we require to cultivate many hectares this year.

“Fifty kilogram of NPK fertiliser currently is going for N17,000; urea is N25,000 while a liter of organic fertiliser is sold for N6,000.

“This year, I cultivated 40 hectares of rice in Owens River Basin at Ngegu, Illah, and Oko Omuluigboma. I also cultivated 35 hectares for the wet season,” he said.

He said farmers in Delta had started harvesting but were not expecting a bumper harvest because they were not able to apply all the needed inputs because of their high cost.

“The implication is clear. At present, a bag of local 50kg rice is sold for between N23,000 and N25,000 but after we factor in the cost of production, the price will increase.

“So, as you can see, the food security plan of government is threatened because we can not produce much rice; other crops are affected due to the rising cost of production in the country,” he said.

Ejezie appealed to the government to deal directly with real farmers through their various associations in fertilisers and agrochemical supply and distribution to achieve planned objectives.

In Calabar, Mr Bassey Etim, Programme Manager, Cross River Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), painted a gloomy picture of the rice harvest in the state this year due to the high cost of fertiliser.

Etim said that the product was now out of reach of most farmers in the state as the cost of urea fertiliser that was sold for between N16,000 to N18,000 per 50kg bag was now sold for N26,000.

“With the high cost, poor farmers in the rural areas won’t be able to boost their yield,” he lamented.

The ADP programme manager said that Cross River has no fertiliser plant and that they get stock from River state.

On his part, Mr Iwara Iwara, Director, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Cross River, said unavailability and high cost of fertiliser were scuttling Nigeria’s agricultural goal of food sufficiency.

Iwara said it would be very difficult to guarantee a bumper harvest which would in turn ensure food security in the nearest future if farmers could not get the product.

He said that the product was sold from N18,000 upwards per medium bag, depending on the type.

“This price is almost beyond the reach of an average farmer in the state, meaning that we still have a long way to go if we must ensure food security in the near future,” he noted.

Similarly, Mr Emmanuel Odey, a rice farmer in Ogoja said: “Here a medium size bag of fertiliser is between N20,000 and N30,000, depending on the quality and composition of the product.

“Most farmers here borrow to do the labour in their farms and before it gets to the time to apply fertiliser, they are already out of cash and with the high cost of fertiliser the situation is worse.

“So many of them just leave the farms like that and at the end during harvest, the productivity is very low.”

To tackle the problem, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Akwa Ibom called on the government to restore subsidies on fertiliser to reduce farmers’ burden as the price of the product was beyond their reach.

The AFAN Chairman in the state, Mr Bassey Inwang who made the call, said that farmers in the state were buying the product at a very high cost and that it was affecting their yields.

He said that they were buying the product directly from the open market without any subsidy from the government.

“We do not enjoy subsidy on fertiliser. The Federal, State and Local Governments should collaborate to end this high cost of fertiliser as is affecting food production.

“Government should reintroduce subsidy as it was in those good years of 2012, 2013 and 2014 to help farmers,” he said.

However, Mr Johnny Udo, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Greenwell Technologies Fertiliser Blending Operations, Uyo, attributed the high cost of the product to the high cost of raw materials.

Udo, a Chemical Engineer, said the cost of running the blending plant had increased tremendously as about 400 litres of Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) was used every two days at the cost of N800 per litre.

He stated that apart from the high cost of diesel, other raw materials were expensive as they were imported from Ukraine and Russia now engaged in war.

“For instance, a litre of diesel last year was about N250 and today it is N800 per litre. The cost of two major raw materials for blending fertiliser is very high than what it was last year,” Udo said.

He said that the private company had a production capacity of about 64, 000 metric tonnes per year, but could hardly meet up due to the present economic situation in the country.

He urged governments at all levels to do something urgently as there might be serious food scarcity in the country next year.

A distributor of fertiliser and agro-chemicals in Port Harcourt, Mr Godwin Akandu, said that there was no government intervention in fertiliser procurement for farmers in the state.

NAN reports that Indorama is a major fertiliser production company in Rivers with a production capacity of 23,000 tonnes of ammonia and 4,000 tonnes of granular urea per day.
Notore is another fertiliser blending company in the state with a production capacity of over 2,000 metric tonnes of NPK per day.

Akandu who is also the Chairman of Etche Farmers Cooperative Union lamented the high cost of the product in the state.

“The cost of fertiliser is not stable; it fluctuates on weekly basis.

“For instance, last week, Indorama sold urea for N22,000 per bag in the open market. The price may change in the coming weeks.

“I think that the exchange rate of the Naira to the Dollar is a determinant factor on production cost and market pricing of fertilisers,” he added.

Mr Edison Mba, a farmer and Chairman, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (ALFAN), Eleme branch, said farmers in the state had continued to suffer the high cost of fertilizer.

According to him, the situation had resulted in the high cost of staple food items.

Also, Abdullahi Muhammed, Chairman, of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Edo North Senatorial District, said the government had not been subsidising fertiliser for farmers in the state.

Muhammed said it had remained difficult for farmers to access the product in the state.

He told NAN in Auchi that fertiliser was being sold at the rate of N16,500 per bag, adding that farmers in the area could not afford to buy it.

“Government has not made fertiliser available to farmers, let alone subsidising it. The fertiliser farmers are buying in the market is sold by private vendors.

“No fertiliser supply was coming directly from the federal or state government to farmers in the state,” Muhammed said.

He added that the state fertiliser company at Auchi was not producing, and farmers in the senatorial district found it difficult to buy the product.

The AFAN chairman blamed the rising cost of fertiliser on the inadequate production of the product.

He, however, urged the government to do its best to make the product available to farmers in the country at a subsidised rate.

“Increased production of fertiliser will make the product more available and force the price down

“There must be sufficient production to enable farmers to have access to fertiliser,” he said

Farmers in Bayelsa have also continued to bemoan the rising cost of the product and said the development was inimical to the country’s policy on food security.

A cassava farmer, Esther Etido, wondered why the government that urged Nigerians to embark on farming had not taken steps to ensure that fertiliser and other farm inputs were available and affordable.

“Many people heeded the call to go into farming to boost food production only to be abandoned. Soon after planting, I was told that a bag of NPK fertilizer was being sold at N30,000.

“I could not afford it and had to do without it. The next option was to use organic fertiliser and the place where they rear cattle is too far for me to get cow dung.

“I thank God because the Niger Delta soil is naturally fertile. I still had a good harvest without fertiliser,” she said.

For another respondent, Epegu Ceaser, the exorbitant cost of fertiliser spells doom for plantain and banana farmers who used to adopt shifting cultivation and leave lands fallow for several years.

“The use of fertiliser is now a necessity because land owners who lease land to farmers no longer allow the land to fallow for years.

“This is because many more people are now farming; so the pressure on the land is much and that is why fertilizer is needed.

“If you manage and buy fertilizer and suckers at very high prices, definitely the produce will be sold at higher prices for you to make a reasonable profit,” he said.

Mrs Theresa Ebiowei, a garri seller, attributed the current high cost of the staple food to the high cost of fertiliser.

“The farmers complain seriously about the scarcity and high cost of fertiliser and that is why they sell their produce at high prices.

“You know garri processing is also labour-intensive; that is why a “painter” measure goes for N1,000.

“In previous years at this time, there used to be a glutt and it is usually sold for between N700 and N800 a painter,” Ebiowei said.

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