There are strong indications that the current soaring prices of food may linger to next year, as fertilizer scarcity continues to limit farmers from producing food crops extensively, LEADERSHIP Weekend checks has revealed.
LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation has further revealed that there is no end in sight to the high cost of food prices and looming hunger in the country, following the difficulty in accessing the key farm input due to both unavailability and hike in price tag. Checks by our correspondents revealed that a bag of fertilizer which was previously sold for N6,000 , now sells for N11,500, translating to 100 per cent hike.
While the situation has further worsened the decrease in farm input, sources in the agricultural sector have however, attributed the disturbing development to the gradual wind-down of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) regime, which they believe paved the way for private sector players to venture into the production of the key farm input, that has thus, given rise to price hike and scarcity.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that due to insecurity in some part of the country, farmers in such areas rely on close-by, but overstretched lands to farm, hence, making the demand for fertilizer necessary to boost bountiful output.
Prior to this scarcity, the federal government, through the ministry of agriculture used to buy farm inputs, including fertilizer and sold same to farmers at subsidised rates nationwide.
Sadly, LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation has also revealed that frustrated farmers are now worried that the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), anchored by the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), is yet to make available the NPK 20:10:10 fertiliser and its price for this year, despite the rains.
Due to this development, many farmers have expressed worry that with the rains almost ceasing, they have not been able to procure adequate fertilizer for their farms, especially the Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK 20;10:10) due to high cost.
Hence, the subsidy that was previously on fertilizer is no longer in place, thereby, accounting for the rise in the price, although, experts expect the prices to gradually wind down as more private players entered into fertilizer production.
Available data obtained by LEADERSHIP Weekend shows that the country consumes no fewer than3, 000,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer yearly, an amount which translates to about N34.5 billion paid by the farmers.
While Dangote is into commercial production of fertilizer, with a Moroccan investor, also working to finalise it’s the establishment of a fertilizer production company in Nigeria, more players are expected to come into that space soon so as to help the country halt the importation of the key farm input at a time the naira is trading above 500 to a dollar.
Recall that in 2016, Nigeria and the Moroccan government facilitated a partnership between the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria (FEPSAN) and the OCP, a state-owned Moroccan phosphate producer. The agreement was aimed at breaking the country’s reliance on importation of compound fertilizers, which was replete with corruption, hoarding and has left the government with billions of unpaid debt.
The partnership, was mandated to help achieve the local production of one million metric tons of blended Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK 20:10:10) fertilizer for the wet season farming, and an additional 500,000 metric tons for dry season farming.
Fielding questions from LEADERSHIP Weekend, the national president, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Arc. Kabir Ibrahim, said, “Nigeria is facing real food crises as fertilizer crises is just a component of it but rising insecurity, access to finance, high prices of inputs, mechanisation, among others, are obvious threats to the attainment of food sufficiency and the ultimate desired food security.’’
He called on government at all levels, to aside intervening in the current fertilizer issue, enhance internal security, to allow farmers readily access their farms, finance as well as necessary inputs at affordable and sustainable rates.
Ibrahim blamed the scarcity and inability to procure fertilizer on the lack of appreciable level of subsidy. He called for reactivation of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI) regime to ensure even subsidy to all farmers.
To him, “the cost of getting blenders to develop this material is very high. The blenders are selling at N9,500, exclusive of transport fare, but when transport cost is added, it now goes for N11,000 per bag.
“The subsidy this year is not as much as last year, so, the government had allowed the blender to sell directly to farmers because they are losing a lot of money to subsidy.”
He noted that, skyrocketing food prices cannot be resolved till next year as farmers are buying inputs at very exorbitant price.
Ibrahim who however, expressed the optimism that the challenge would soon be resolved said: “I am aware of sprouting fertilizer plants all over the nation by private entrepreneurs. I am also aware of an arrangement for the blenders to procure some of components through the NSIA.
“This is the way to bolster the capacity of the fertilizer issue and we commend the government and the entrepreneurship of the participating firms. I am convinced that with time, it will make fertilizer available like Coca Cola in Nigeria . We will definitely appreciate it.”
On his part, the president, Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) Thomas Etuh, said: “with the rains already here, there is fear among farmers over the inability of many of them to procure fertilizer, especially, the Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous (NPK) variety because of high cost.
“The farmers are also concerned that the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), anchored by the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), is yet to make available the NPK 20:10:10 fertiliser and its price for this year even as the rainy season crop production activities have begun in the southern states.”
The president, Tomatoes and Orchard Producers Association of Nigeria (TOPAN) Mr Oyeleke Bola on his part, expressed worry that the fertilizer will not be readily available and affordable due to delays in releasing the new price and the commodity itself. The prices across the states , according to him , ranges from N6, 700 and N8, 000 for NPK and N8, 800 to N13, 000 for Urea at present.”
Bola who admitted that government was doing its best to mitigate the security challenges facing the country, assured small scale farmers that production inputs would be subsidised soon..
He promised to ensure that the activities of middlemen is curtailed through effective and efficient monitoring of the sales of the products.
A farmer, Cheren Terfa Jeremiah, who also spoke to LEADERSHIP Weekend, said fertilizer prices range from N10,000 to N15,000, depending on the company and source.
He said, prices should be regulated for those of us in the open markets. In fact, agricultural extension worker strictly monitor the distribution of all government aided agricultural inputs and if such products are found in the open market, it should be confiscated by regulating officers”.