Stakeholders decry rising cost of fertilisers, its attendant low crops yield

Stakeholders in the agricultural sector across the South-West zone have expressed concern over the rising cost of fertilisers with its attendant low crop yield per hectare and shortage of food in Nigeria.

They spoke separately with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday, appealing to the three tiers of governments to take over direct supply and distribution of the product from private individuals and corporate groups.

In a survey conducted in Ibadan, Ado-Ekiti, Akure, Abeokuta, Osogbo and Ilorin, the respondents said that the situation, if not urgently checked, could lead to low usage of fertilisers, with low productivity of crops as a dire consequence.

In Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, a Crop farmer, Mr Olusayo Fadipe, described the situation of fertilisers, getting out of reach of the farmers, as worrisome.

Fadipe said that without the use of fertilisers, the expected crop yield would drop, resulting in reduced revenue for farmers.

According to him, any farmer, who manages to buy fertilisers at high cost, will have to build the increase into his selling price, thus making farm produce unaffordable for consumers, both individuals and corporate organisations.

Fadipe, therefore, called on fertiliser manufacturers in the country to work toward producing at maximum capacity.

“Governments, especially at the Federal and State levels, should subsidise the cost of fertilisers for the sake of affordability to farmers.

“Farmers’ cooperative societies should also be encouraged to establish fertiliser selling units, close to the farms, as logistics support for fertiliser distribution,” he said.

Another farmer, Prince David Ogundele, said that increase in the prices of fertilisers would lead to decrease in the harvest of crops and shortage of food for both human and animal consumption.

Ogundele said there would also be shortage of raw materials for industries, thereby resulting in unemployment and difficulty in refunding bank loans for farmers.

He encouraged the use of organic fertilisers, while calling on the Federal Government to take up the production and distribution of fertilisers without involvement of the middlemen.

“With fertiliser plants not in perfect working condition, the Federal Government should intervene in the interest of the farmers and of the country, because nobody can do without food,” he said.

Commenting, Mr Bode RajI, the Permanent Secretary, Oyo State Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the state government has a provision of 25 per cent subsidy on fertilisers for genuine farmers in the state.

According to Raji, fertiliser market has been deregulated in the country, implying that government is not directly involved in the distribution of the product.

“However, the state government is coming in to give assistance in the area of subsidy provision,” he said.

The permanent secretary acknowledged fertilisers as very critical to agriculture, without which, he said farm activities would not run well.

He said that the subsidy was to enable the farmers to access the product, even at exorbitant prices.

The state government, he said, through the ministry’s sister agency, Oyo State Agriculture Business Development Agency, already has genuine data of farmers in the state.

According to him, the ministry has also partnered with various farmers’ associations to make it easy to identify genuine farmers in every local government area.

Raji, however, appealed to farmers to be sincere with the government, advising them against reselling the subsidised fertilisers whenever they were supplied to them.

Also, an Agriculturist, Matilda Oyewole, identified fertiliser as one of the key inputs in agriculture, especially in Nigeria.

“So, there is a direct proportional increase in the cost of farm produce as prices of fertilisers increase.

“This is because it affects the cost of production in agriculture. The more the cost of production goes up, the more the selling price goes up.

“And most times, fertilisers are difficult to get, as they don’t get to the grassroots farmers easily. When they, eventually get to them, they are too expensive to bear b.

“Fertilisers are being sold between N25,000 and N45,000, depending on the type of fertiliser you purchased,” Oyewole said.

Also, Mr John Olateru, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Oyo State chapter, attributed the increasing cost of fertilisers to the high exchange rate of foreign currencies.

“This has caused a lot of instability in the prices of fertilisers; because everything is following the trend of the exchange rate. This is an unfortunate situation.

“Furthermore, the cost of diesel is not helping matters at all,” Olateru said.

Commenting, Dr Kola Farinloye, an Associate Professor of Agriculture and Forestry at the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State, said a premium has yet to be paid on how farmers could gain access to fertilisers on time.

“All efforts must be made to ensure that fertilisers are available to our farmers.

“The situation is harsh due to high cost of importation, as Nigeria imports 60 to 70 per cent of fertilisers available in the market.

“The exchange rate, as well as other factors, are reasons why fertilisers are very expensive and beyond the reach of an average farmers.

“Definitely, high cost of fertilisers or scarcity of it, will lead to high cost of farm produce,” Farinloye said.

In Ado-Ekiti, stakeholders wondered about the nonexistent of, at least, a fertiliser plant in any part of Ekiti.

They said that with the agrarian nature of the state and the fact that most of its residents are into, either subsistence or market farming, the state should have a fertiliser plant.

According to them, having such a plant in the state will ensure ready availability of the product and reduce its cost, which is currently staggering.

A peasant farmer, Mr Joel Akanbi, said that the state had left its farmers to the mercy of fertiliser merchants, who engage in shrouded deals.

This, he said, could affect food security, as farmers would have to run at losses.

Another farmer, Mrs Folakemi Kayode, urged the government to, in the alternative, guarantee large supplies at cheaper price, so as to checkmate activities of those hiking price indiscriminately.

A raw food seller and farmer, Mrs Kemi Oluwaleke, said that an urgent intervention from the government was needed in all matters relating to fertilisers, if bumper harvest, especially during the current rainy season, could be achieved.

According to her, fertiliser is the main problem of farmers, as a chunk of the profit made from planting and harvesting, is taken away by too much of hard labour and the process of seeking alternative means.

Contributing, Mr Oluropo Dada, the Chairman, AFAN in Ido-Osi Local Government area, also called for the establishment of, at least, one fertiliser plant in any part of the state to make it accessible and affordable.

Dada said that farmers were no longer finding it comfortable to buy the commodity at an open markets and stalls, due to its exorbitant price.

The chairman regretted that many farmers had, either abandoned their farms or abandoned the use of fertilisers to source for alternatives such as cow dug and goat faeces, among others.

“We no longer buy fertilisers for our farms, because they are too expensive for us to afford.

“For example, when a fertiliser that is meant to be given to us at subsidised price, is being sold for almost N30,000, is to say the least, unfair.

“We also do not want the Federal Government to give out fertilisers through government officials or intermediaries anymore.

“Farmers from their respective state and local governments have registered their names at the national level, so the fertilisers should be given to us directly at reduced cost,” he said.

In his remarks, Mr Olatunji Ayegbusi, Chairman, Farmers Association in Ikole Local Government area, urged the government to focus more on the issue of fertilisers and ensure that it was not politicised.

Commenting, the Ekiti Coordinator, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Daramola Adeyemi, identified the nation’s policy issue on fertilisers and the market fall as the major reasons for high cost of the commodity.

Adeyemi said that initially, before the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Minister of Agriculture, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, government was involved in the procurement and distribution of fertilisers, but later the policy changed.

He explained that after the administration, President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, after studying the programme and discovered that certain things were not working well and that the policy was not sustainable, it suspended it.

Adeyemi said under a new arrangement, government pegged its price at a particular rate.

According to him, the problem now is the agro dealers handling purchase and distribution, who came up with production cost, different from state to state.

“Not all states have blending machines, hence, the disparity in the prices of fertilisers, in spite of the fact that the price is pegged at a reasonable amount by the Federal Government.

“The states that have blending machines procured cheaper fertilisers than states without any of the machines.

“For instance, Ekiti does not have a blending machine; they took the produce to Kaduna for blending and by the time it is blended and transported back here, the cost of transportation will be added, which makes for the high cost,” he said.

Adeyemi also identified the Ukraine/Russian War as another contributing factor to the rise in the prices of fertilisers.

“But, having realised this, the ministry still supports farmers in term of inputs at subsidised rate, under some special programmes, as inaugurated by the government.

“The Federal Government is no longer involved in the procurement and distribution; the only thing government does for farmers is to provide special interventions and supports.

“This is where the issue of middlemen came in; because some rich men mopped up to resell at exorbitant prices,” he said.

Another agriculture expert, Mr James Ibitoye, said that government needed to initiate a bottom-up approach by further registering and selling to farmers.

Ibitoye urged the government to organise seminars for farmers and make use of registered extension agents and facilities, getting and analysing feedback from the farmers.

According to him, there are paper farmers, who take advantage of the subsidised fertilisers to resell them to the real farmers at exorbitant prices.

On the way out, he called for price control and regulatory agencies, branding of the government’s subsidised fertilisers and the creation of designated payment units.

In his reactions, Olabode Adetoyi, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security in Ekiti, said that the present administration in the state would do everything possible to return agriculture to the front burner.

According to Adetoyi, the drive to regain the status of the state as a food basket of the nation, made the government to adopt agriculture as one of its five pillars.

With this in mind, he said, the state government had always been protecting farmers’ interest at all times, promising that Gov. Kayode Fayemi-led administration would not relent in this regard.

Adetoyi, however, advised famers to step up patronage of the government’s agro outlets, where they could buy at controlled prices.

This, he said, was to avoid falling into the hands of those sabotaging the government’s efforts.

Meanwhile, in Akure, capital of Ondo State, an Agronomist, Mr Clement Emiju, told NAN that the few available fertilisers were not affordable to an average farmers.

Emiju said, “a bag of fertiliser now costs between N23,000 and N25,000, which is much higher than what we used to have in recent past.”

He said it was worrisome that there was no longer subsidy on fertilisers by the government.

“You know you can’t create land and to be able to use the little land you have used repeatedly, you need fertilisers.

“When you cultivate a piece of land repeatedly, there will be depletion of the soil nutrients and you start looking for fertilisers here and there and when you eventually see it, the cost is exorbitant,” he said.

Emiju, who specialises in cassava, yam and maize, said he had, however, shifted his cultivation to groundnut and cowpea due to the inadequacy or non-availability of fertilisers in the state.

“I moved to groundnut and cowpea to complement my main area of agriculture, because they don’t require much fertilisers like others.

“With cowpea and groundnut, apart from the fact that they don’t require much fertilisers, you can plough them back to the soil for soil nutrients,” he said.

Emiju, therefore, appealed to the government to find means of making fertilisers available and at affordable prices, in order to ensure food security.

“We will only appeal and advise government to subsidise fertilisers and make them available to farmers since we cannot create land and we can only use the little we have to make more yields for food to be available and to make agriculture profitable.

“As it is, no poor or peasant farmer can afford the cost of the available fertiliser,” he said.

The agronomist also advised farmers not to depend all the time on inorganic fertilisers, saying: “Though, they have faster results, they are not environmental friendly like organic fertilisers.

“An organic fertiliser requires large quantity in the soil, but its efficiency in the soil is much pronounced.

“Organic fertiliser stabilises soil temperature and it is richer. It contains major and minor nutrients,” he said.

In Abeokuta, Prof. Jimoh Olanite of the Department of Pasture and Range Management, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNNAB), said that cropping activities would be almost impossible, particularly, in the Northern part of the country without fertiliser.

“In the Southern part of the country, one can still get some yield, even without applying fertilisers, especially if the soil has not been overused, because the soil, compared to the Northern part, is rich.

“However, there is need for use of fertiliser across the nation, because research has shown that the more fertiliser you apply, up to a certain point, the more yield of crop you are likely to get, especially for crops like maize and other cereals, which require fertilisers like Nitrogen,” he said.

The lecturer noted with concern that Nigeria had continued to rank among the countries with low use of fertilisers in the African continent.

According to him, the average use of fertilisers per hectare ranges between 100kg and 200kg per hectare in some African countries, while the average use of the product on land in Nigeria is about 50kg per hectare.

Olanite said there were about 10 fertilisers producing companies in Nigeria, adding that majority of them were not operating optimally.

“Our problem is not lack of fertiliser producing firms, because we have about 10 of them.

“Nigeria’s projected fertiliser need has been put at between five and seven million metric tonnes annually, which the companies should be able to produce for the country’s consumption and also have excess for export.

“The problem, however, is that many of these firms don’t produce up to half of their installed capacities.

“The newly established Dangote factory in Lagos, with a capacity for three million metric tonnes per annum, for instance, is reported to be producing about half of that figure,” he said.

Olanite also said that Nigeria had continued to depend on importation of raw materials to produce its fertiliser blends.

Noting that Nigeria had comparative advantage in Nitrogen and Limestone, he said the country was still largely depending on importation of raw materials like phospate and potash.

He said that various government’s interventions, like subsidising the price of fertilisers for farmers, had often been hijacked by “political farmers” .

Olanite, therefore, called on the FG to come up with an effective monioring mechanism to ensure that the subsidised fertilisers get to the real farmers for increased productivity.

In his comments,Mr Olusegun Dasaolu, the Deputy National President of AFAN, noted that the situation had continued to hinder the productive capacity of farmers across the nation.

“The resultant effect of the high cost of fertiliser is food scarcity, because farmers have no access to fertilisers that could assist them in planting and making their crops grow well.

“Fertiliser is one key product that assists farmers in growing their produce, particularly, in the Northern part of the country, where they are producing most of the foods.

“In the Southern part of the country, our soil is richer and the quantity of the product needed is comparatively low.

“But, in the North, much is needed, because that is where the bulk of the food is grown.

“Unfortunately, the prices have continued to soar, as a 50kg bag of NPK, mostly used by Nigerian small holder farmers, is currently about N22,000, while a bag of urea fertiliser is about N19,000.

“As far as we are concerned, as a body of farmers, the high cost of available fertiliser in the market now is not palatable and it is not good for a viable business, as far as agricultural business is concerned.

“The situation has forced many farmers out of business and the entire country is suffering for it,” he said.

Dasaolu, however, expressed hope that prices of fertilisers might be forced down by the time the newly established Dangote factory finally began to operate in its full capacity.

He called on the Federal Government to come up with policies, directly targeted at making fertilisers available to farmers at affordable prices.

Contributing, Mr Samuel Adeogun, the Ogun Programme Coordinator of the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), said that the rising prices of fertiliser was a reflection of the increased cost of its production.

Adeogun said: “Once there is an increase in the price of fertiliser, it means that the cost of production has gone up.

“Once the cost of production goes up, that automatically translates to increase in prices of farm produce, because farmers, since they are into business, must have to recover their cost.”

He said that there had been a global surge in fertiliser prices due to the Russia-Ukraine war.

According to him, it is inevitable that the prices of fertilisers will rise in Nigeria since the country depends on importation of raw materials for the production of fertilisers.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of AFAN in Osun, Alhaji Sulaiman Araokanmi, said that farmers in the state were buying fertilisers at exorbitant prices, which in turn had affected the selling price of their farm produce.

Araokanmi said that the government’s subsidised fertilisers were not getting to the farmers.

“In the four years, I have been AFAN Chairman in Osun, we have never seen or got fertilisers supplied to farmers in the state from the Federal Government.

“At a point, I went to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to solicit assistance for farmers in Osun, but I was told that fertilisers were not available,” he said.

The AFAN chairman said that the Dangote fertilisers, promised farmers, were also not available in the market.

Araokanmi said that the fertilisers, which farmers were using for their crops, were bought from the private business owners in the open market and sold to them at very exorbitant prices.

Also, Mr Folarin Akanni, a farm input dealer in Osogbo, linked the high cost of the commodity to the high dollar exchange rate and the fact that most fertilisers were being imported.

Akanni said that in addition to the dollar exchange, getting fertilisers supply was also becoming very difficult because of the ongoing Russia/Ukraine war.

He said that at the moment, only urea fertiliser was still available in the market at the rate of N25,000 upwards.

According to him, the most popular and best used fertiliser, NPK Golden, which is no longer available in the market, was last sold between N26,000 and N27,000.

Akanni said the production of Dangote fertilisers had been halted for a while, adding that it was not available anywhere in the Nigerian market.

Similarly, Chief Julius Akinwande, the AFAN Chairman in Ife Central Local Government, said that increase in prices of the product had affected farm produce in the country.

Akinwande said that before now, farmers bought fertilisers directly from the goverment at cheaper rates, but there was nothing like that again.

“The government’s subsidised fertiliser is no longer within the reach of the farmers,” he said.

Akinwande called on government to make it available for farmers at the grassroots at subsidised rate with other insecticides, for adequate food production.

In Ilorin, Malam Ahmed Shaba of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kwara chapter, said that some farmers, due to the rising costs of normal fertilisers, had started using fake fertilisers.

Shaba said that the fake ones, cost as low as N9,000, while original fertiliser cost N25,000 per bag.

According to him, many fraudulent individuals have taken advantage of the fertiliser scarcity to blend and package different substances into sacks as fertilisers.

These substances, he said, would later turn into sand after some time.

“We appeal to the Federal Government to come to the aid of farmers, so that we can get access to fertilisers for our farms.

“This will, in turn, help food security across the country,” he said.

He warned that application of fake and substandard fertilisers on farmlands could destroy the soil and reduce crop yield, as well as affect human health negatively.

Shaba, therefore, advised the government to urgently intervene to save the nation from imminent food shortage.

Also, Malam Ahmed Saliu, the Zonal Chairman of Amana Farmers and Grain Supply Association of Nigeria, said that non availability of the product had affected the output of many farmers.

Saliu added that non-availabiliy of fertilisers would affect the production of many commodities in the country.

He urged government at all tiers to assist farmers in making fertilisers and other farm inputs available and affordable to enable them produce food in large quantities. (NAN)