Farmers in Nigeria, just like their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa are often faced with difficulties in accessing fertiliser. This always leads to panic buying and hoarding, resulting in low fertiliser application.
Almost two decades after African Union member states met in Abuja and adopted the “Abuja Declaration on Fertiliser for the African Green Revolution,” pledging to increase fertiliser use to 50kg per hectare by 2015, Nigeria still has one of the lowest fertiliser applications on the continent at 20kg per hectare according to the World Bank. Nigeria lags behind peers like Egypt and South Africa.
The country’s recommended fertiliser use per hectare stands at 100 kilogrammes. The failure to meet this recommended standard has been blamed for acute low crop yields. This is unhealthy for a country where farming and livestock rearing is the main livelihood for over 60 per cent of households.
Nigeria’s ability to achieve economic transformation, poverty reduction and secure food supply is hinged on its agriculture sector.
It comes as no surprise then when President Muhammadu Buhari in the presence of 18 governors, ministers, federal lawmakers, captains of industries, diplomats as well as prominent traditional rulers, commissioned the three million metric tonnes capacity per annum state-of-the-art Dangote Fertiliser Urea Plant in Lagos.
A boom for farmers
A visibly excited President Buhari said the coming on stream of the plant would create huge opportunities in the areas of employment, trade, warehousing, transport and logistics. The plant, according to the president “Will greatly create wealth, drastically reduce poverty and secure the future of our nation”.
He said, “In the agricultural sector, another focal point of our economic policy, we expect a boom as fertiliser is now readily available. Many Nigerians who hitherto practised subsistence farming because of the non-availability of necessary inputs can now take up agriculture as a business. We expect a rise of a new breed of agropreneurs who will add value to farming and make the nation self-sufficient in food production.”
According to the president, the plant will further advance Nigeria’s drive towards achieving self-sufficiency in food production, create jobs, increase the inflow of foreign exchange and accelerate economic growth.
He said Nigeria’s dependence on imported products in the agriculture sector will soon be a thing of the past.
Curbing low yields
Experts said fertiliser from the plant could help curb the acutely low yields in Nigeria, a situation partly resulting from limited access to the product.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu attested to this when he boasted that fertiliser from the plant would be used at the state-owned rice farm, which is billed for commissioning soon and is expected to be the largest in sub-Sahara Africa.
This is an indication that the coming on stream of Dangote Fertiliser would surely make Africa self-sufficient in food production and a net exporter of food to the world.
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina in the company of the board members of the bank, recently spent more than nine hours touring the industrial complex, weighing in on the importance of the fertiliser plant to Nigeria and Africa.
“Being a man passionate about agriculture, this is a company that is producing three million metric tonnes of urea, which will make Nigeria totally self-sufficient.
“Nigeria will become a net exporter of fertiliser. It will drive productivity growth in Nigeria, prices will come down and the quality will also improve.
“Look at cement. Nigeria used to be a large importer of cement. Today, Nigeria is the largest exporter of cement. Thanks to investment by the Dangote group,” noted Adesina, who was a former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The National President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabir Ibrahim, said Dangote Fertiliser will help farmers to optimise productivity towards ensuring food sufficiency in the country.
“It is a welcome development, which would help to address the deficit in the product. Non-availability of fertiliser is a major threat to farmers, so we are happy with the commissioning of the plant. However, like Oliver Twist, we are hoping for further reduction in the price considering the purchasing power of farmers in the country,” he said
An ambitious project
President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, said the ambitious project would drastically reduce the level of unemployment and youth restiveness through the generation of direct and indirect employment.
He said agriculture, which accounts for over 20 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, has the potential of becoming the biggest source of income for the nation, providing employment and raw materials for industries.
“However, low fertiliser usage has been a major reason for low productivity in the sector.
“It is common knowledge that non-availability of the product, in quantity and quality, rather than affordability, is the primary constraint to the use of fertiliser.
“Our goal is to make fertiliser available in quantity for our farmers. We are rolling out initiatives that will transform the agric sector for all.
“This will boost productivity and enhance output across the nation,” noted Dangote.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele said the plant would help solve Nigeria’s perennial problem of importing petrochemical products including fertiliser and reduce forex expenditure on agricultural imports.
He added that the plant is timely when one considers recent developments in the global market, where prices of wheat, fertiliser and crude oil spiked by over 20 per cent following the Russia – Ukraine war.
“In addition to the lessons we learnt from the protectionist actions of countries during the early days of COVID-19, this investment is again a glaring testament to the foresight and tireless efforts of Mr. President in encouraging domestic production of items that can be produced in Nigeria, especially agriculture. This would not only help to enable greater productivity of our agricultural sector but would also help in insulating Nigeria farmers from depending on imported fertilizer,” he said
A boost for FX earning
Dangote Fertiliser Plant, which occupies 500 hectares (which is the size of about 1,235 football fields) of land in Lekki Free Trade Zone, is the largest in Africa and the second-largest urea plant globally. It was built at a cost of $2.5 billion.
The complex established to produce three million metric tonnes per annum of urea fertiliser in Phase 1, is expected to help Nigeria retain $125 million in import substitution and provide $625 million from exports of products from the plant.
This, experts argued, would reduce the pressure on Nigeria’s scarce foreign exchange.
Commenting on the plant, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo, said: “As the largest economy in Africa, Nigeria has a potential to greatly increase its trading volume, production capacity and generation of foreign investment”.
The company, while noting that it has started exporting fertiliser to the United States of America (USA), India and Brazil, among other countries, said the capacity of the plant will be expanded to produce multi grades of fertiliser to meet soil, crop and climate-specific requirements for the African continent.
In the course of its construction, the complex is said to have provided about 5,000 direct and indirect jobs in all categories, an additional 5,000 jobs within the community, as well as created 500 permanent jobs.
Along with the several other subsidiaries, Dangote Industries Limited is the second biggest employer of labour in Nigeria, after the federal government.