As Nigeria spends $500m annually on palm oil importation
With deficit of 3 million metric tonnes of tomatoes
By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Morocco fertilizer giant, OCP Africa, has signed N40 million pact with selected agricultural institutions in Nigeria, which include, National Horticultural Research Institute, NIHORT, Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research, NIFOR, and the Institute of Agricultural Research & Training, IAR&T, to develop specific soil fertilisers.
The Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, was signed by the Managing Director, OCP Africa Fertilizers Nigeria Limited, Mr. Mohammed Hettiti, Executive Director, NIHORT, Dr. Abayomi Olaniyan; Executive Director, NIFOR, Dr. Celestine Ikuenobe; and Executive Director, IART, Prof Veronica Obatolu, which is to develop soil specific fertilizer for oil palm and tomato production in the country.
Details of the MoU indicated that fertilizer for oil palm is to the tune of N5 million, while N35 million for soil specific fertilizer on tomato.
According to Hettiti Nigeria spends $500 million annually on palm oil importation and it is worrying, which consumption is on the steady rise at 2.9 per cent, hence the need to move fast to curtail huge capital flight with local production of the commodity and the need to start developing soil specific fertilizer.
He also pointed out that the country’s tomato value chain due to poor concentration to add value to it as demand remains higher than supply.
The aim of the collaboration is to develop sustainable and innovative solutions to address key barriers to the full realization of the agricultural growth potential in Nigeria. This will be achieved by supporting the site and crop-specific fertilizer formulations that will enhance soil fertility status and improve farmers’ productivity
As part of the agreement, OCP NIGERIA will among other things provide funding to the Partners for the conduct of the Project in accordance with the terms of this Agreement and also provide any relevant information and assistance which are reasonably necessary to conduct the Project.
In his opening remarks said, “The cooperation agreement being signed today is the cumulative result of a lot of hard work, research and several coordinated efforts between OCP Nigeria and its partners at National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR) and Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IART). He said OCP Africa would continue working together with local partners to develop specialty fertilizers for many different focus crops across Nigeria.
“In order to address these important issues, the cooperation of agreement being signed with the research institutes is the right step in the right direction to be able to formulate fertilizers that would boost production of the staple crops.
“OCP Nigeria is acting to bring a specific response to Nigerian agriculture challenges and provide impactful and sustainable solutions to Nigerian food systems; our approach is science-driven, sustainable and partnership drive.
“OCP Nigeria aims to equip Nigerian farmers with knowledge and capacity to practice sustainable plant nutrition and reduce nutrient loss by leveraging on research and development.
He also assured that his organization will remain committed to the Federal Government’s effort to boost food security and also create wealth and employment in the sector towards self-reliance.
“Let me reiterate the commitment of OCP AFRICA fertilizer Nigeria to the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and our continued support to the Federal Government of Nigeria in its unwavering desire to develop agriculture as the ‘new black gold of Nigeria’.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural development, Sabo Nanono, represented by the Chief Agric Officer, Quality Control, Farm Inputs Support Services Department, Bashir Abbakassim, maintained that the Buhari’s administration is determined to boost food production, self-sufficiency and security in the country with adequate farm inputs such as fertilizer.
Nanono further stated that it was timely for OCP Africa Nigeria to come into the sector with various interventions, particularly in the fertilsier subsector in order for farmers to have access to the input at the right time of cultivation of their crops.
“We really thank OCP Africa, Nigeria for coming to Nigeria and partnering with us to provide raw materials for us and our blending plants to produce fertilizers for our farmers and help move the agriculture sub-sector indeed forward.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director, NIHORT, Dr. Abayomi Olaniyan, said the institute is grateful for the opportunity to develop a special fertilizer for the industry and will not let OCP Africa down, will ensure value is added to tomato production in the country.
“The deficit of tomato supply is about 3 million metric tonnes, presently we have a production of about 1.8million metric tonnes and just recently scaled up to 2.3 million metric tonnes. We can meet the national requirement and not just the national requirement but save the foreign change in importing tomato”, Olaniyi said.
The Executive Director, NIFOR, Dr. Celestine Ikuenobe, said there is the need to have such input and hope that there will be a new oil palm subsector in the country with the signing of the MoU with OCP Africa.
Ikuenobe also said achieving potential yield goes beyond having the right seed but also having the right input and in the right proportion.
According to him, the collaboration amongst other things will enable them to carry out proper soil mapping which will determine the type of nutrient and quantity in the soil. It will also enable the formulation of location-specific and specialty fertilizer for the oil palm. The oil palm is a highly regarded plant which has a comparative advantage
Also speaking was the Executive Director, IAR&T, Prof Veronica Obatolu, who described the signing as a significant milestone for the sector that would also meet the SDGs, and also improve nutrition in the country.
However, Obatolu pointed out challenges negating productivity of the sector including funding, climate change, aging farmers, lack of adoption of new agricultural technology and others that need to be tackled by development partners as OCP Africa, Nigeria, is doing now.