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Ban on fertiliser will encourage smuggling

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[FILE] Close up Male hand giving plant fertilizer to young tree. Photo/Bizvibe

Experts in the agricultural sector have warned the Federal Government to reconsider its position on the ban placed on importation of fertiliser, predicting that the policy will encourage smuggling of the product through the country’s porous borders.

Recall that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in an official circular, signed by its Director, Trade & Exchange Department, Ahmed Umar, said effective from December 7, 2018 fertiliser has been added to 41 items banned from benefiting from official forex window.

Meaning that anyone who wants to import fertiliser has to do so through sourcing forex in the black market or anywhere else that is legitimate.

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The bank claims the decision was meant to boost local production of over 1m metric tonnes of blended Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK) fertiliser in the country, rehabilitate moribund fertiliser plants and conserve the huge foreign exchange used in its importation.

A farmer and former Chairman, Agriculture and Allied Group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Prince Wale Oyekoya, said based on the fact that the country’s fertiliser consumption capacity is rising, if the policy is formulated, fertiliser would be coming into the country through the back doors, like the scenario of surrounding importation of rice.

According to a report released by the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC), in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and other international agencies, the country’s fertiliser consumption level increased by 63 per cent in 2017, rising from 959,364 metric tonnes in 2016 to 1,564,816 metric tonnes, in the face of deficit of the product in circulation.

Oyekoya said: “We don’t have enough companies producing fertiliser and we need to develop our own organic fertiliser, aside the fertiliser we are talking about. Before you know it, these fertilisers will be coming through the back door. This move will encourage smuggling. You know that farmers need fertiliser and if they don’t have it what do they want them to use? People will find ways of getting the fertiliser.

“It will be like what is happening to rice. Though rice is banned, but you’ll find it everywhere due to our porous borders. Who are the people bringing them in? It’s the people that have the money, which are the policymakers. So they should just stop deceiving us that they are banning this and that, the policies are not sustainable. So to me, it’s not going to work.”

Oyekoya pointed out that the existing fertiliser companies in the country, currently producing are facing infrastructure deficit, which the Federal Government ought to tackle first, instead of placing ban on the importation of a product that is insufficient in the country.

President, Yam Farmers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Prof. Simon Irtwange, predicted that the policy might nose-dive if the Federal Government fails to make adequate provisions to mitigate its impact on farmers who are still struggling to access the product.

Said he: “With this move, if local production is not boosted fast, it would push the prices of fertiliser beyond the reach of many farmers, adding to challenges of unavailability of NPK, and high cost confronting farmers.

“The challenge we have with most of these policies is that they come ahead of things that we ought to have been done in the first place. During a seminar organised by our association in November in Benue, one of the high ranking traditional rulers said, no farmer in his domain has seen a single bag of NPK fertiliser that was meant to be sold to farmers at a reduced price. We would have expected that the government allows fertilizer be saturated in the market and more affordable before making such policy, because the fact is that fertiliser supply chain is still facing many challenges.”

But contrary to this, Executive Secretary, Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Ahmed Rabiu Kwa applauded the ban. He told The Guardian that the move would develop the local manufacturing industry, to provide employment opportunities, grows the economy and save the county’s foreign exchange.

“Currently, our farmers consume 1.5m to 2m tonnes of fertiliser yearly and we have capacity to produce up to four million tonnes. We have more than 30 fertiliser blending companies, with what we started last year to 2018, we have been able to put 20 companies into operation and we are planning to bring more on board.”

He pointed out that there is no shortfall of the product in the market, as claimed. “Fertiliser are available in fertiliser markets, they are also in stock in fertiliser plants.”

Though several efforts to get the country’s current production capacity failed, but the recent report of Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), says made-in-Nigeria fertiliser has presently hit 2.22 million metric tonnes, as at last April.


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