… As farmers fear impending crisis
By Steve Agbota
Nigerian farmers have raised the alarm over adulterated fertiliser and other farm inputs distributed by some dealers during this year’s season’s planting exercise. They are worried the practice could threaten food security in the country.
This was as a result of the Federal Government’s inability to reduce the prices of fertiliser since January, which it pegged at N5,500 per bag.
The Federal Government slashed the price of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) fertiliser to N5,000 per bag to encourage farmers to boost agricultural production in the country. Despite this, a 50kg bag of NPK fertiliser is currently being sold at N9,500 in the open market, while Urea is sold at N8,000. NPK fertiliser reached an all-time high of between N9,000 and N10,000 last year.
Reports from Cross River, Kaduna and Anambra states say farmers have recorded failed crops attributed to adulterated fertiliser. The farmers worried that the country may face fertiliser crisis, which will directly affect the farming community and indirectly hit the masses.
Speaking in Lagos, the Director General, Feed Nigeria Summit Secretariat, Mr. Richard Mark Mbaram, expressed concern over the proliferation of adulterated fertilisers and pesticides, saying the government should immediately investigate the illegal practice in the industry.
He said such practices in the fertiliser and pesticide industry are putting in peril government’s food self-sufficiency targets because the fertiliser and pesticides used by farmers are adulterated.
He said the government may not achieve the desired (self-sufficiency) target, not only in corn but across all agricultural commodities that depend on these products. For the corn sector alone, he said that production may drop, while unregulated components mixed with the fertilisers can cause long-term effects to soil quality.
According to him, fertiliser is vitamins for soil and consists of three main types, nitrogen, potash and phosphate. He urged the government to revive the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) programme to cushion losses caused by use of sub-standard fertiliser.
Mbaram commended the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, for winning the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate. According to him, Adesina stood out in efforts to make food available to Africans.
He noted that the selection of Adesina as the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate reflects both his breakthrough achievements as Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria and his critical role in the development of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and also gives further impetus to his profound vision for enhancing nutrition, uplifting smallholder farmers, and inspiring the next generation of Africans as they confront the challenges of the 21st Century.
As Minister of Agriculture from 2011 to 2015, he added that Adesina successfully transformed his country’s agriculture sector through bold reforms, including creating programmes to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production, and to help cassava become a major cash crop.
Adesina also took major steps to end over 40 years of corruption in the fertiliser and seed sectors in Nigeria by launching the e-wallet system, directly providing farmers with vouchers redeemable for inputs using mobile phones. The resultant increased farm yields have led to the improvement of food security for 40 million people in rural farm households.
Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Otunba Femi Oke, also called on the government to monitor the industry and ensure that measures are taken against unscrupulous traders.
According to him, it was the government’s mandate, working with manufacturers, to assure adequate supplies of fertiliser and pesticide at reasonable costs, as well as rationalise fertiliser manufacturing and marketing, and protect consumers from the risks inherent in pesticide use.