Why farmers are unable to access fertiliser

Farmers

Two months after the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative commenced across the country, farmers in some states are yet to access the much-hyped fertiliser, and where available, they are sold above the subsidised N5, 500 price.

The goal of the initiative was to ensure easy access to the product at affordable rate. It was meant to be sold for N5, 500 per bag, as against the normal price of N10, 000, following a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed with Morocco on importation of phosphate for fertiliser production.

Feelers from Ogun, Enugu, Imo and other states, especially in the South show that farming is likely going to suffer serious setback this season. The Guardian learnt that the challenges differ from state to state. While Ogun, Imo, and others are yet to take delivery of the commodity, Enugu is in serious financial straits to source the product.

Those who spoke with The Guardian fear that this year’s farming may go on without the application of fertilisers.

Few days ago, Nigeria signed the second bilateral agreement with Morocco on the Second Phase of Fertiliser Initiative. The first phase, was for the supply of a cargo of phosphate by Morocco to Nigeria after eight weeks of its signing.

This supply led to the resuscitation of 11 blending plants, which produced about 1.3m tonnes of fertiliser; creation of 50,000 (direct) and 150,000 (indirect) jobs, while farmers have access to the quantity of fertiliser they need.

The second phase will enable the maximisation of local fertiliser production through the creation of platform for basic chemical products, secure Nigeria’s fertiliser supply for competitive prices and reinforce local distribution channels.

Despite this and other efforts made by government, corporate bodies and individuals, non-availability of the commodity is seriously affecting farmers, a development that might affect this year’s harvest.

But what are the encumbrances?

The Fertiliser Producer and Supplier Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) has attributed the non-availability to logistic problem and unavailability of fertiliser blending plants across the country.

A FEPSAN official, who craved anonymity because he is not authorised to speak on the subject, said fertilisers are available in the plants, but they are facing transportation problem to get the product to farmers.

Unfortunately, the agro dealers are expected to bear the transportation cost of the product to the farmers. However, the uneven distribution of the blending plants has posed serious challenge to dealers who may have to expend their entire profit transporting the product and in some cases spending more.

The official noted that the problem was unique to some states in the South, as there are only two fertiliser blending plants in the entire South, one in Lagos and the other in Ebonyi, maintaining that agro dealers may spend more getting the products to farmers in the region.

He disclosed that FEPSAN has being trying to find a lasting solution by working with transport companies to move the product to some of the far distances at the rate of N200-N300 per back, so that the dealers can also make some profit.

The source noted that the frustration of the agro dealers was their inability to make much profit like before, coupled with the fact that they are still owed the supply they did during the 2014/2015 Growth Enhancement Scheme period.

He disclosed that some state governments have been collecting for their farmers, hinting that Ogun, Oyo Ondo and Osun states have collected. He said some states in the Southeast and Southsouth might be facing challenges of accessing the commodity.

He said; “States in the Southwest are being supplied by Golden fertiliser in Lagos. States where you are getting those complaints are in the Southeast and Southsouth. It might be difficult to get the product to the Northeast because of insurgency, however Taraba State would soon get a blending plant to serve that region.”

The official added that most states in the north might not be facing such challenge as Kebbi, Jigawa, have fertilisers and there are three plants in Kaduna State, two in Kano, one in Jigawa, and one in Plateau State.

He disclosed that of the 8 million bags of fertiliser to be produced under the first phase of the programme 6 million have been produced.

The official explained that after payment states are given an IPO, and it is the IPO that is presented to the blending plants before supply is made.