The Federal Government and Russia on Monday signed an agreement for the supply of potash, a raw material for fertilizer production from a Russian company, URALCHEM.
Mr Uche Orji, the Managing Director, Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) signed on behalf of Nigeria while Mr Dmitry Konyaev, Deputy Chairman, URALCHEM, signed on behalf of the Russian government.
The agreement is under the aegis of Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) chaired by Jigawa State Governor, Abubakar Badaru.
Speaking afterwards, Badaru said it was a milestone in President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort to support agricultural production.
He said the aim was to make fertilizer available and affordable to Nigerian farmers.
“As we recall, President Vladimir Putin invited African presidents of which our president was there and during one of their side meetings, Putin proposed the possibility of Nigeria buying potash from a company in Russia, knowing full well that we always buy potash.
“You remember, we have similar agreement with Morocco on the supply of phosphate; so today, we witness the consummation of that discussion to sign agreement on potash purchase for Nigeria.
“What we have just witnessed will help in stabilising the price of fertilizer, NPK, that we produce locally; and you could recall, in the last three or two years, Nigeria has been producing its NPK by itself; buying only phosphate from Morocco and potash from Russia.
“The beauty of this deal is that this is a direct purchase; no commissioned agent and also because of the discussion of the two leaders, the price was reduced by some percentage-very competitive.
“So, it is a very good development for our farmers and we have to thank the president for this initiative and also thank the president of Russia for bringing this up and having his company to supply us at a competitive price,’’ he said.
On his part, Russian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Alexey Sherbashin, said that Nigeria-Russia bilateral relation in economics and trade was developing.
He said that signing of agreement was strategic as Nigeria’s agriculture needed intensive development.
“Together with the modern machinery we are offering to the Ministry of Agriculture, good and steady supply of fertilizer will play a key role in improving the welfare of common people here,’’ he said.
More so, Orji said that, at the end of 2016, Buhari was very concerned about the price of fertilizer which at the time was as high as N11,000 to N13,000 for a 20kg bag.
Orji said that the president had a clear question-how do we bring high quality fertilizer to farmers at a reasonable price?
“At that time, of the more 30 blending plants in the country, only two or three operated at less than 10 per cent utilisation.
“We were importing fully blended fertilizer from outside the country; the president set up PFI chaired by governor Badaru.
“The president, also, entered into agreement with the King of Morocco for the supply of phosphate which is the key component of fertilizer blending.
“Between 2017 when the PFI started and today, over 19 million bags of fertilizer have been blended by this programme at N5,500 and more importantly, of the blending plants that were moribund, we have revived a substantial number of them.
“Today, as we approach the programme for 2020, 26 local blending plants which include some of the old moribund ones and some new ones have joined the programme,’’ he said.
He said that cost of imported material had declined from what was a 100 per cent for fully blended fertilizer to less than 35 per cent—which represented only two components—phosphate and potash.
According to him, there are direct transactions with the producers; phosphate with Morocco and potash with URALCHEM.