By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The Fertilizer Producers Association of Nigeria, FEPSAN, Wednesday, assured farmers in the country availability of 600, 000 metric tonnes of fertilizer under the Presidential Initiative to boost food production in the country despite the raging Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic.
This was disclosed by the Executive Secretary, FEPSAN, Gideon Negedu, while in a chat with Vanguard, assuring that the fertilizer industry is set to meet farmers’ demand.
According to Negedu, normally there are different blends or formulation of fertilizer, but the one government is mainly targeting is one blend and that blend is usually the general blend that cuts across maize, rice, and other crops that farmers need.
But the industry encourages people to test their soils and that is why people invested so they can now come with their soil test results in order to produce special fertilizers for them.
He further explained that the PFI is not paying for special fertilizers or other blends. They pay only for the generic one.
He said: “I can tell you today that we targeted to start 600, 000 tonnes of NPK 20: 10: 10 under the Presidential Initiative.
“The way the season works, in the southern part of the country at the end of March into April rain starts, farmers begin to prepare to go to farms. In the northern part, especially North Central, from the end of April, May rain starts. They are only getting set and establishing gradually. Some farmers are still waiting to go and clear their fields because they want enough rain to go into the soil.
“Then in the core north where farming is done including Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, parts of Niger State and others. The rain usually comes well at the end of May into June. In the southern part, we even have two seasons.
“So what have we done? We have put enough lead stock to start so that as soon as farmers need they get. We started earlier in the southern part of the country for production. In the northern part, we are also producing now. The products are already there, and the agro-dealers are buying in stocking up their stores. But farmers don’t like storing fertilizer, once the rain starts they clear their land, go and start buying.
“A good proportion of them are preparing to go and buy. We have products in all these blending plants. In 2017 we started that programme we only had 11 blending plants, but today I can tell you we have 35 blending plants but only 31 are active, and these are all private sector investments, and all those factories you saw we have 31 of them, and 31 of them were given materials to start, but four of them are under review because they need to do an inspection and clear them for participation, but even that 31 is pretty much. So we have enough fertiliser on the ground.”
According to the FEPSAN scribe if for any reason demands scales up raw material source is very close by.
“It is in Port Harcourt for Urea, then in Morocco just 11 days away. The only area we have distance in getting raw material is in Russia, but all we have done is we have gotten all the materials we will need from Russia, and what we call other blends more materials are arriving.
“Today is 18th May 2020, a ship with phosphate from Morocco has come, there is another one on the 12 of May 2020. These are all extras just to buffer up. The one from Russia will be arriving some time end of the month apart from the 600, 00 tones that we have. So we have enough lead stock to start, we have extras that we have brought”, he said.
Speaking on the affordability of the commodity he (Negedu) commended President Muhammadu Buhari for intervening in that regard as a 50-kilogram bag of fertilizer is sold for N5, 000.
But he also clarified that there are other products in the market which are not produced by FEPSAN members, hence they do not sell at the N5, 000 per bag due to their production cost.
“The President has been very supportive, instead of the traditional N5, 500 we pay he has asked us to pay N5000 for 50kg. Let me clarify again. There other products in the market because I have heard reports and we want to have this relationship with the media such that we are both acting as watchdogs on behalf of the farmers.
“The report is that there is some arbitrage or increase in the price amongst those who sell but it is confusing because what we ask people is the factual report so that we can investigate.
“There are other blends in the market. If a blender buys his raw material on his own and blends he doesn’t sell it at government price. The ones you can see at government prices are the ones that have presidential logo at the back that is supported in the market.
“A private blender with the same brand you see in the market, the same producer can’t sell at that price because the cost is never at that price. So that distinction needs to be cleared.
“What Mr. President was able to achieve was that he got the raw materials in working with Mr. Thomas, the materials cost was discounted. If a blender wants to go and buy the same raw materials at the normal price can never sell at what government is selling, it is not possible. Government is cheaper sometimes even up to N3, 000, even N4, 000 because there is a lot of support the government is giving.”
He also explained why the fertilizer produced under the Presidential initiative is cheaper, “Let me give you an example. The arrangement we have with OCP we have a major discount. We signed a non-disclosure agreement with them and we cannot announce what the discount is.
“With the Russians also, the President was able to meet the President of Russia to help us to meet with direct producers. So we are cutting off middlemen and buying directly from the factory. So we are cheaper.
“Now for Ndorama that is here in Nigeria, Ndorama is also giving us the area at a discounted price. They are not selling it to us as they sell in the open market. A lot of support has gone into that.
However, on an arbitrary increase in the price of fertilizer with a government logo, he warned that any distributor caught will be dealt with.
“Where you can raise some real concern is when you see products that are being sold with government logo on it.
“The punishment for that is a distributor who is caught doing that will be blacklisted and the appropriate authority will be informed”, he stated.