The issue of fertilizers has been a thorny issue for Nigerian farmers over the years. Very often it is either in short supply or simply too expensive and out of reach.
The supply of basic products, so essential to abundant agricultural production, has over the years defied all logic, with the activities of middlemen, who hoard the product, and the lack of adequate local production capacity. combining to compound the woes of farmers across the country.
Eager to address the lingering problem, the federal government has initiated policies aimed at boosting the agriculture and agri-related sector as a component of its economic growth agenda.
In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari launched a fertilizer initiative which led to an increase in the number of local fertilizer manufacturers.
Before that year, there were very few functional fertilizer factories. The number has grown to more than 70, most of which are owned by private sector operators.
One such local fertilizer factory, the Dangote Fertilizer Factory located in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos, was inaugurated by President Buhari on March 22.
Considered the largest granulated urea fertilizer plant in Africa, it was built at a cost of $2.5 billion and occupies 500 hectares of land. It has the capacity to produce three million metric tons of urea fertilizer per year.
Analysts estimate that this amount will cover almost half of the country’s total fertilizer needs, estimated at seven million metric tons per year.
With the commissioning of the Dangote Fertilizer Plant, it is expected that the product will be available in large quantities when due.
Dangote Fertilizer is also expected to make Nigeria and Africa self-sufficient in food production and a net exporter of food to the world.
Dr. Joe Dada, Chairman of Livestock Feeds plc, believes that Dangote Fertilizer will bring massive foreign exchange to the country and also create jobs.
“For me, this is another crude oil to Nigeria because Nigeria will soon be an exporter of the product.
“Recently, Nigeria signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, so this is a major platform for us to cover the entire African region.
“I see a massive inflow of foreign currency as a result of the investment in Dangote,” he said.
Ms. Omolara Oguntuyi, Area Director, South West, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, has a similar view.
“The plant will bring aid to the nation, especially with fertilizers which are a major obstacle on the nation’s path to food self-sufficiency.
“Over the years, Dangote Group has always penetrated rural areas to ensure that end users get its products; we don’t expect the fertilizer to be any different.
At the plant’s inauguration, Buhari said the $2.5 billion plant would boost Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and accelerate economic growth.
“This fertilizer plant should reinforce our administration’s drive to achieve self-sufficiency in the country’s food production.
“I congratulate Dangote Industries Ltd. for his commercial initiative in the creation of this plant.
“It will reduce our dependence on imported fertilizers, create jobs, increase the inflow of foreign exchange and accelerate economic growth.”
According to him, the establishment of the factory demonstrates the commitment of Dangote Industries Ltd. to the socio-economic development of the country and the well-being of Nigerians.
The chairman said he was optimistic that the investment in the plant would replicate the group’s previous experience in the cement sector where it had become a leading name in Nigeria and across the African continent.
Mr. Gideon Negedu, Executive Secretary of the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), is optimistic that more investment will still come into the fertilizer industry.
Good federal government policy, he says, is responsible for the recent increase in the number of fertilizer manufacturing plants in the country.
He said the fertilizer factories would meet the demands of farmers across the country.
“A challenge with fertilizers is that the needs of southern Nigeria are totally different from those of northern Nigeria, because the soil in the north is not as fertile as the soil in the south, which has a higher level of nutrients.
“Today, Nigeria has a local industry that blends fertilizers to the specific needs of farmers.
“So all the farmers need to do is visit any local blender to let them know that a soil test has been done, and then the blender provides the farmer with an appropriate and even customized fertilizer,” a- he declared.
Regarding complaints about the high price of fertilizers, he said that the price of the commodity has increased globally, which has affected the import and purchase price of fertilizers.
A bag of fertilizer would cost between N20,000 and N23,000, depending on the company, quality of fertilizer and size.
But the operators attributed 30% of the cost to logistics, as the goods are transported mainly by road.
For Dr. Akin Olonihuwa, former Provost of Kabba College of Agriculture in Kwara State, farmers need more support and assistance for their production activities.
He said support was needed, for example, for land preparation in some parts of the country, for rice and other food crops.
For John Olateru, president of the Commodities Association of Nigeria, what remains crucial is the expansion of the federal government’s anchor borrower scheme southward, arguing that it has remained skewed primarily in favor of the North.
He said that since the start of the program run by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the beneficiaries were mainly from the North.
But to ensure the availability of fertilizers to farmers with the arrival of Dangote Fertiliser, stakeholders called for the overhaul of the entire product distribution system.
Mr. Lanre Oguntoye, of the National Association of Chambers of Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), specifically warns against allowing a middleman to neutralize expected gains from the new factory.
He recalled that during the inauguration of the Dangote Fertilizer, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of Dangote Group, promised the availability of the products, saying that the days of product scarcity are over.
Mr. Basil Okafor, a local farmer from Delta, believes that agriculture can be the main pillar of the national economy if given the necessary priority.
He said the country has ample arable land in all six geopolitical zones to support the country’s food security agenda.
Chief Joseph Olanrewaju of the Organized Private Sector Exporters Association, believes federal government support for non-oil exporters would help attract much-needed foreign revenue, creating millions of jobs across the country.
He said friendly and supportive policies would not only boost investor confidence, as in the case of the fertilizer sector, but also attract much-needed foreign direct investment (FDI) to the country.
But while analysts await the impact of the Dangote fertilizer plant, Mr. Oboh Abumeri, a cassava farmer in Edo, believes food shortages will be solved if fertilizers are made available to genuine farmers.
“Commissioning the plant will put more food on the tables of ordinary Nigerians, create jobs, wealth and help the country achieve much-talked-about food security.
“There are regrettable challenges of insecurity in the land which can distract farmers and frustrate efficient sourcing across the country, but I am confident that these obstacles will be effectively overcome so that the nation fully benefits from the full impact of the Dangote fertilizer plant” he said.
Like Abumeri, many analysts believe the gains from the Dangote fertilizer plant are huge and are urging stakeholders to support the group to effectively tackle the fertilizer conundrum that had stood in the way. effective economic recovery in Nigeria.