Hope rises for Nigerian farmers as the first ship of phosphate-a major component for NPK fertiliser, from Morocco will arrive the Lagos Port tomorrow.
The intervention, which was initiated by President Muhammadu Buhari and his Moroccan counterpart, King Mohammed VI, during a visit of the latter to Nigeria, is to make available one Million Metric Tonnes of the product to farmers for this year’s wet and dry season farming.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while addressing journalists on Tuesday, said that the country was expecting the first shipment of phosphate from Morocco tomorrow, following the bilateral agreement signed last year.
Chief Ogbeh said blending is also expected to begin immediately by the off-takers, who are private blenders in the country in order to make the product available to farmers adding that “We are bringing the price of fertilizer down to N5000.”
The minister stated that “the target we have is just about 700,000 to 800,000 tonnes of fertilizer per annum, but the problem is that we don’t only satisfy Nigeria, our neighbours always come in and take a bit, we can’t deny them entirely but we can satisfy our need first.”
But farmers spoken to expressed reservations about the pronouncement.
Mr. Jame Jeji of Garam, a community in Niger State bordering FCT, said he doubts if the process would not be hijacked by private business bodies or some politicians.
‘’There have been many of such promises before but in the end farmers don’t usually get the product either at appropriate time or at the stated time,’’ he said.
An agric expert and a farmer based in Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr Tajudee Adebola, said what he heard about the programme was that it is private driven as the fertiliser coming will be distributed to private individual business men to go and blend and sell to the farmers.
‘’So, in that case, at the end of the day, government may not be able to regulate the price nation-wide but we farmers would take them by their words,’’ he said.
The National President of All Farmers Association, Arch. Kabir Ibrahm, however, welcome the initiative, saying if it will be true, the farmers will be better for it.
‘’We want fertiliser everywhere like Coca cola but you know that is what they are saying now and we will take them by that,’’ he said.
But to dispel the farmers’ fear, the Special Assistant to the minister on Media, Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye, told Daily Trust that farmers would get the product early this year because it is a private sector-driven process, noting that government was facilitating to ensure availability and affordability before the commencement of wet season farming.
On urea, he said the country has two giant manufacturers-Indorama and Notore who can supply enough of the product for the country.
He said government is not going to be involved in the sale of the product but will create the enabling environment to ensure that the blenders do not push up the prices.
He said all categories of farmers, including women would have access to fertiliser this year at affordable rates.
The price of fertiliser has increased dramatically since last year as a result of a number of factors including scarcity of forex, security which triggered rise in the prices of food stuffs in Nigerian markets.
A 50kg bag last year sold between N10, 000 and N12, 000 depending on the location. In some cases, farmers, despite the high cost of the product, do not have access to them.