National Fertilizer Consumption: Nigeria Still Lags Behind
FERTILISER has become a core agricultural input, which farmers have come to depend on for increased yield, aside other variables like quality of seed, technique and farm management ability and mechanisation.
At about 20kg fertilizer usage per hectare, on the average, Nigeria lags behind countries like South Africa and Egypt that use over 100kg/hectare. In developed countries, usage rate of over 200kg/hectare is common and it holds true that there is a correlation between its usage and crop yield. The more fertilizer employed in growing crops, the higher the yield, other things being equal.
However, due to the fact that Nigeria is still using below 20kg/hectare, the potential of applying more fertilizer is huge. Compared to Egypt and South Africa, Nigeria would still need 500 per cent leap to catch up.
The average in Africa is actually very low and this has always been a known fact. The effort is to increase the usage to bolster food and nutrition security status of nations.
In Nigeria, some farms like Kaboji Farms, a subsidiary of Flour Mills of Nigeria (FMN) Plc, located at Kaboji, near Kontagora, Niger State appears to lend credence to the claim of increased yield with higher usage of fertilizer.
In its production of maize, it paints a clear picture. For instance, the average yield per hectare of maize in Nigeria is about 1.5 – 2 tons/hectare, but Koboji has consistently recorded 4 tons/hectare.
Paul Gbededo, Group Managing Director of FMN attributes this to the increased quantity of fertilizer used in the farm. About 250kg/hectare of fertilizer is used according to figures he released. The yield would also be dependent on employing the right seed and correct blend of fertilizer among other factors, he pointed out. It is expected that the usage of fertilizer in Nigeria would grow geometrically given the facts on ground.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO postulation and projection for Africa) shows that the use of the input would rise by 2018.
According to the recent report of the world agricultural body, ‘demand for nitrogen fertilizers is expected to grow fastest in Sub-Saharan Africa, at 4.6 per cent a year. However, even with the current low usage in the region, it is expected that about 340,000 additional tons of nitrogen will be used in 2018. But it noted that this accounts for less than five per cent of the projected global increase.
Under former President Jonathan Administration, support came through the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES), whereby a farmer is in contact with the e-Wallet, a kind of buy-one-and –get-two strategy, says Gbededo.
Comments from farmers reveal that it has helped to secure such inputs with a good measure of transparency. A release from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development reveal that about five million farmers have benefited. As the new administration puts things in place, stakeholders indicate that the scheme needed to be fortified to reach more rural farmers and increase quantities obtained by medium sized farmers.
“Once poor farmers start having access to more fertilizer at a subsidised rate, there will be an increase in the quantum of farm produce in the country. It has been proven in the last few years because for maize, the price has come down, sometimes at about N40,000 per metric ton in comparison with the past,” the FMN GMD stated.
With this, there is competitiveness in maize production in line with the global market. If farmers were supported with access to good seed and other inputs, the impact would be greater and better. However, much as fertilizer has done a lot to boost maize production, stakeholders would not want this limited to the crop, but seek support for other crops such as sorghum, cassava, rice, millet, guinea corn oil palm and crops in which Nigeria has the competitive advantage.
Private Sector Involvement and Logistics
According to industry sources, logistic challenges impede the distribution of fertilizer. Bad roads in several parts of the country also add to the attendant increase in cost of production.
For instance, transport costs to move the commodity from Lagos to Kano, The Guardian learnt is about N12,000 per metric ton. This has added a measure of cost to the overall delivery of the goods. It is in this regard that sector players are imploring government to move faster in developing the railway as that would lower the transport and overall cost of farm inputs and produce too.
All these factors would help keep operators competitive and get farmers to access more fertilizer at affordable rate.
Gbededo says these factors notwithstanding, the fertilizer market is still the big one, with most fertilizer consumers accessing the input in the open market to make up for the smaller amount of subsidized ones received through GES. Only about 15-20 per cent of FMN fertilizer sale is attributed to government patronage, according to him. The rest is distributed via other fertilizer channels in the market.
GES and Private Sector Role
Our investigation shows that the success of the e-wallet system is mainly based on the fertilizer networks the blenders/marketers have established over the years.
Dealers and sub-dealers were encouraged to take advantage of the e-wallet system to reach farmers registered by the government. It should be noted, according to Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, Special Assistant, Media and Strategy to former Minister of Agriculture that government has a database of about five million farmers and this has a positive impact in the way the GES worked to reach them, using the existing networks and other channels.
Government has distanced itself from procuring fertilizer directly; farmers are reached through the members of the Organised Private Sector involved in fertilizer business.
Facts on ground show that it is still a developing market since it has been used to reach only five million farmers out of about 60m farmers nationwide.
Local production and self-sufficiency
Notore Chemical Industries Plc is the only primary producer of urea, a nitrogen-based fertilizer in the country and its role is quite strategic. It has its production plant at Onne, near Port Harcourt, in Rivers State, where it took over from former NAFCON during the privatisation programme of the Federal Government.
In January 2010, Notore started production of commercial quantities of ammonia and granular urea. In April same year, its capacity was at 300,000 metric tons (MT)/annum ammonia and 500,000 MT/annum urea capacity plant under its Managing Director, Mr. Jite Okoloko.