Rainy Season: Fears as Imminent Food Crisis Looms
By Daily Trust
Stakeholders in the agricultural sector, especially farmers, have expressed fears over imminent food crisis owing to the continued rise in the prices of fertiliser.
They said if not checked the situation will affect this year’s rainy season farming and eventual harvest.
The farmers fear that the hike in price would deny many farmers access to this critical input needed to boost the fertility of their farmlands.
President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc. Kabiru Ibrahim, confirmed the worry over the current prices of fertilizer in the country noting that it would affect the next farming season.
“Last year, because the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) did not give the usual subsidy to supply 20:10:10 at N5, 500, farmers could not afford the commodity as in previous years and this is directly proportional to the hike in food prices today,” he said.
He said if the prices of fertilizer remain like this, there will definitely be corresponding food inflation in the country.
Daily Trust reports that since the beginning of the 2021/2022 dry season farming, the prices of fertilizer have risen beyond the reach of many farmers.
Farmers and critical stakeholders in the sector say that unless the government intervenes, the country is likely to record low food production this year.
Situation in states
Reports from Niger State indicate that farmers are worried over rising prices of fertilizer, especially the Urea and NPK as they prepare for the rainy season.
A market survey revealed that the price of urea had moved from N11,000 to N18,000, while that of NPK has moved up from N10,000 to N16,000, though the prices varied from towns.
Some farmers, who spoke with Daily Trust, said the high cost of fertilizer would lower their productivity because production capacity is dependent on the cost of farm inputs.
A farmer, Hussaini Yakubu, said: “In some places, Urea is sold at the rate of N14,900 if you buy from the dealers, but it costs between N15,500 or N16,000 if sold to individuals. Before now, it was sold at the cost of N8,000 or N9,000 last rainy season.
In Kano State, a survey conducted shows that a bag of Urea now costs N16,500 to N16, 800 as against the N11,000 sold last year. It was also revealed that a bag of NPK fertilizer is selling at N12,000 to N19,000 depending on its limestone content as against the initial N10, 000 sold during last year’s rainy season.
The Chairman of Tomato Out-growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN), Alhaji Sani Danladi Yadakwari, said though farmers in the state are hoping that the price of fertilizer will drop before the rainy season, the present hike is worrisome.
“We pray that this should be taken care of before the rainy season and as a farmer, I am optimistic that the price will drop,” he said.
Another farmer, Malam Habibu Tsakuwa, stated that he and other farmers have begun scouting for manure to use as the current price of fertilizer has shown that it is going to be beyond the reach of an average farmer.
He said that they have figured out that manure is the only answer for now.
In Kaduna State, Daily Trust reports that the dealer price of urea fertilizer is between N15,800 and N16,000 while the retail price has risen to between N16,500 and N17,500 from N11,000.
Our correspondent also gathered that NPK is sold at between N17, 000 and N19, 000 at retail price as against N12, 000 it was sold same time last wet season.
Malam Haruna Tinau, a member of the Rice Farmers Association in Nigeria (RIFAN) in Kaduna State, said: “We are not yet in the rainy season and it is approaching N20,000, that tells you things are going to be difficult this year.”
Farmers in Kaduna State are equally disturbed by the surge in the market price of fertilizer, a development they said affected their dry season activities and may likely affect the forthcoming wet season.
Findings at Funtua and Dandume markets revealed that Urea variety was sold at N15,700, N15, 600, and N15, 500 for Dangote, Indorama and Notore respectively.
Similarly, a bag of NPK 20:10:10 variety was sold at N12,200, N10,500 for Savannah and Tac Agro respectively.
Our checks further showed that NPK 15:15:15, which the FG banned its importation was scarce in the markets and was sold at not less than N28,000.
A fertilizer dealer said the high cost is due to the “FG’s ban on the importation of NPK 15:15:15 fertilizer, which put more pressure on the locally made Urea and 20:10:10.”
Sani Suleiman, a farmer in Funtua, said the high cost of fertilizer was one of the reasons many irrigation farmers cultivated wheat in this dry season instead of tomatoes and Irish potatoes.
“Tomatoes and Irish potato need ample fertilizer to give the desired result and its price is fast going beyond our reach hence we cultivated wheat that needs not much fertilizer,” he said.
Another farmer in Dandume LGA, Yahaya Muhammad, said the entire farming as a business is fast becoming unaffordable to peasant farmers, starting from farm rent, then the price of fertilizer and other inputs.
In Benue State, a 50kg bag of fertilizer currently sells between N15,500 and N16,000 at the open market in Makurdi metropolis depending on the product.
This is against N12,000 sold last year.
Farmers in other major towns of the state such as Otukpo and Gboko said that they purchased different brands of fertilizer at between N18, 000 from the open market.
In Jos, a female farmer, Mrs. Atong James, who cultivates cassava, maize, rice, Irish potatoes and pepper, among others said she purchased a bag of Urea at the cost of N18,000 and that of NPK at the cost of N17,000 as against N11,000 and N12,000 last year.
Joshua Ngwen, the Secretary-General, National Tomatoes Growers, Processors & Marketers Association of Nigeria, Plateau State Chapter, said their members currently bought Urea fertilizer at N18,000 and that of NPK between N16,000 and N17,000.
In Ogun State, findings by Daily Trust revealed that Golden fertilizer is sold at N17,000 per 60kg, Urea is N16,000, while NPK goes for N17,000.
Subaru Ruth, a female farmer, said: “We bought fertilizer at between N10,000 and N12,000 per bag last year. But the price has now increased to N17,000.
The state’s Secretary of AFAN, Ogunjimi Abiodun, described the price as exorbitant.
In Oyo State, the cost of a bag of NPK stands at N14,500 as against the initial price of N8,000 while that of Urea is N16,000 as against the initial cost of N8,000.
The chairman of AFAN in Oyo State, Mr. John Olateru said: “The implication of high cost of fertilizer is that the cost of production will continue to increase while that of goods will also continue to increase.”
Ukraine-Russia war may affect urea production
There are fears that the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia may affect the production of urea fertilizer in the country and further push its price up.
The Kaduna State Chairman of the Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (MAGPAMAN), Lawal Maishanu, who expressed the fears, is worried that 2022 was turning out to be a dangerous year unless the government intervenes fast.
“Between 37 and 45 per cent of the chemical used in urea fertilizer comes from Ukraine while Morocco provides about 35 percent of the chemicals. We fear that if the war in Ukraine spreads, things will be bad,” he said.
Malam Haruna Tinau, a member of RIFAN is also worried that the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia was another problem because a large portion of Nigeria’s urea is sourced from Ukraine.
Meanwhile, fertilizer dealers have blamed the continued rise in the prices of fertilizer on the rise in the prices of critical raw materials used in producing fertilizer.
Mallam Sefiu Alani said most of the chemicals used in producing fertilizer are imported from Ukraine and Morocco and the price has been increasing even before the war in Ukraine.
On his part, Alhaji Ishiaku Musa alleged that most dealers prefer to sell the product outside the country to maximise profit through forex.
Experts speak on the way out
Alhaji Kamilu Sheikh Munnir of Cotton Producers and Merchants Association (COPMA), advised the government to strengthen its fertilizer policy so that farmers could access it on time and at an affordable price.
He advised the federal government to revamp the Fertilizer Presidential Initiative (PFI) so that all the blending plants across the country will be made operational.
“With enough fertilizer from these PFI’s blending plants, there will be more fertilizer in the market and this will automatically crash the prices in the open market,” he said.
Also, the AFAN President, Arc. Kabiru Ibrahim said: “We appeal to the government to restore the PFI intervention to bring down the prices of fertilizer. We believe this will help to bring down food inflation too.”
Although, no immediate response from the officials of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture on the high cost of the input as at press time, a competent source at the ministry, said the issue of fertiliser subsidy was being handled by the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative away from the ministry.
The source, who craved anonymity, said the immediate past minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Mohammed Sabo Nanono, had directed that the ministry should no longer have anything to do with fertiliser distribution to the farmers, adding that there is no contrary directive to that at present.
He urged the state government to, aside from the PFI, subsidised fertiliser to the farmers in other to address the food crisis in the country.
To address the short fall in fertiliser need of the farmers, the federal government came up with Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, an arrangement that will ensure mass production of fertiliser at a subsidised price to the farmers.
The arrangement led to resucitation of not less than nine blending plants across the country producing NPK fertiliser at N5,500 per 50kg bag in many parts of the country.
The initiative reportedly produced close to 30 million bags of fertiliser during four years of it’s active operation.
However, farmers said the arrangement did not work last year as the government’s subsidised fertilisers were not available to the farmers.
Only farmers with purchasing powers were able to secure fertiliser at open market last year at a rate close to N12,000 per bag as against the subsidised N5,500.
This, the AFAN President said is contributing to the high cost of food presently being experienced in the country.
He called for the return of PFI during the farming to address high cost of the critical input in the open market.