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Boosting local fertiliser production for food security

Nigeria’s pursuit of self-sufficiency in fertiliser production is at the core of its efforts to reduce import dependence and strengthen food security. There have been…

Nigeria’s pursuit of self-sufficiency in fertiliser production is at the core of its efforts to reduce import dependence and strengthen food security.

There have been numerous initiatives made by government and private firms to increase local fertiliser production and consequently increase food production across the country.

Nigeria boasts of significant agricultural potential with a vast land area of 923,800 square kilometres. However, a considerable portion of this land still needs to be improved due to critical deficiencies, as revealed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN).

Like farmers worldwide, Nigerian farmers rely on fertilisers to boost crop yields. Chemical fertilisers contribute 40-60 per cent of global food production, making them vital in ensuring a stable food supply.

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Predominantly, Nigeria relies on Urea and NPK compound fertilisers and blends also favoured by farmers. The heavy reliance on imported fertilisers before 2016 in Nigeria led to seasonal scarcity and inflated prices during the planting season.

To tackle this challenge, the previous administration of President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI). The initiative was built on a tripod of collaboration, an excellent expression of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

The primary public sector partners are the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The private sector is led by the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN) and the domestic/international suppliers of raw materials (Indorama of Nigeria, OCP Africa of Morocco and Uralkali of Russia).

This initiative sought to revitalise the country’s fertiliser production and alleviate the persistent shortages and delays hindering agricultural productivity. Thus, from a mere 11 blending and manufacturing plants in 2016, the PFI midwifed the resuscitation, growth and establishment of over 80 plants with the most modern equipment capable of over 6 million tonnes of Urea and 8 million tonnes of blending capacity. It has made Nigeria self-sufficient and capable of meeting the needs of other countries within the continent and beyond. The export of Urea (over 2.5m mt) has taken the lead in non-oil export earnings in 2022. Domestic consumption has reached an all-time high of about 2 million tonnes of various blends. FEPSAN, representing the interests of fertiliser producers, blenders, and suppliers, has been instrumental in reviving the country’s fertiliser industry. It has been a critical contributor through members including TAK, INDORAMA, Flour Mills, Alyumma, Barbedos, Mallam Alu, Matrix, Waraka, MFB and WACOT Limited. With over 30 blends validated, FEPSAN’s members can produce over 8.5 million tons of NPK blends and 6.5 million tons of Urea, with actual production varying annually.

The association members have consistently pushed an average of 1.2 million tons (NPK) and 5 million tons (Urea) per annum.

As Nigeria aims to enhance fertiliser production and availability at affordable prices, the expertise and commitment demonstrated by the FEPSAN members have become increasingly invaluable. By ensuring a steady supply of fertilisers, the association supports the agricultural needs of the country’s regions. It contributes to the nation’s overall food security.

Recently, President Bola Tinubu declared a state of emergency on food security. President Tinubu announced plans to immediately release fertilisers and grains to farmers and households to mitigate the effects of subsidy removal, alongside deploying concessionary capital/funding to the sector, especially for fertiliser, processing, mechanisation, seeds, chemicals, equipment, feed, and labour.

This focus on improving the Human Capital Index (HCI) is crucial for increased productivity. FEPSAN President Sadiq Kassim welcomed the intervention, emphasising the importance of involving every stakeholder in the final implementation to achieve tangible results swiftly. Kassim said boosting local fertiliser production remains critical in ensuring Nigeria’s food security

In a recent meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima, the association commended the Federal Government’s commitment to ensuring an efficient and transparent distribution of raw materials in the life of the PFI and assured the government of its pledge to support all government initiatives on food security. The association also pledged to energise its members to become more efficient in their production processes to reduce fertiliser costs.

The FEPSAN president disclosed that though Nigeria’s consumption of fertilisers has never exceeded 2 million tons of all types, the association has over 15 million tons of capacity through its members. And should there be increased demand, the association will supply Nigeria’s needs, he assured.

He further noted that exporting fertilisers will also be a vital source of foreign exchange, with Notore, Indorama and Dangote already doing that with Urea. He said Nigeria is making strides in reducing fertiliser imports through initiatives like the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative and FEPSAN’s contributions.

According to him, continued investment and commitment to improving domestic production would help Nigeria overcome seasonal scarcity, stabilise fertiliser prices, and ultimately enhance agricultural productivity, ensuring a sustainable food supply for its population.

The recent appointment of cabinet ministers and the duo of Senators Abubakar Kyari and Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi assigned as Minister and Minister of State for the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security is a welcome development, he added.

He said both ministers come with an unmatched pedigree and are poised to deliver on the promise of the president on food security.

Already, they have inaugurated a committee to study the production of blends and logistics of delivery of fertiliser to the food security initiatives of the government. It is to key into the existing budgeted plans for agri-inputs distribution of the ministry. Will the results of all these initiatives show in coming months?


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