Nigerian farmers would not count fertiliser as one of their problems in the new farming season, Managing Director, Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, Uche Orji, assured on Friday.
Mr. Orji, who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja, said this was because 12 of the 28 abandoned fertiliser blending plants in various locations in the country have since been fully reactivated and made functional by the agency.
The reactivation programme, under the agriculture-focused funding programme of the agency, started on December 10, 2016, as part of its support to government towards achieving food security and sufficiency.
The NSIA boss said the intervention programme resulted in the first shipment of products from the country on February 14, 2017.
Although products are sold mostly to agro produce dealers, farmers are not restricted to how to buy the product.
“At the moment, 12 of the 28 blending plants hitherto idle have been fully reactivated and producing. By this time next year, the number will increase to 18 plants,” Mr. Orji said.
“Remember, 10 of the 12 currently being used were completely dead. When I visited those plants, their roofs were completely torn off. But, now they have been renovated.”
Citing the example of the plant in Kaduna, Mr. Orji said although it was abandoned for several years, the plant is currently producing, employing an average of between 300 and 400 workers.
Last year, he said the government relied on the 50,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer it blended and sold to farmers at N14, 000 per bag.
However, he said with the current level of production from the reactivated plants, farmers were getting the products for N5, 500 only, with the price inscribed on the bags, to avoid cheating.
“We are targeting a production capacity of 12 million bags of fertiliser this year. Our initial target was 20 million bags per year. But, transportation logistics still remain a big problem. We have to rely on rail in Kaduna and Bauchi to move the products.
“We have revamped the plants. We are employing people. We are optimistic that this year, fertilizer will not be an excuse for farming in Nigeria,” Mr. Orji said.
Giving a background to the programme, the NSIA CEO said for years the country had relied on imported fully blended fertilizer for farmers, despite the abundance of the four components raw materials for fertiliser – urea, phosphate, potassium and limestone in Edo, Sokoto and other parts of the country.
“We used to import the whole thing completely blended. And there is a lot of physical labour involved in making fertilizer. What we did was to say: we have 28 blending plant that were idle. The Presidency approved that we look at how we could make fertilizer available to farmers on time and at a reasonable price,” he said.
With urea and limestone, two components that make up 65 per cent of the raw materials for fertilizer, he said NSIA resolved that instead of continuing to import blended fertilizer, only 35 per cent could be imported and shipped to the blending plants, for the product to be blended and sold to farmers.
By so doing, he said the idle plants would not only be reactivated and production restored, but also jobs created and huge foreign exchange saved, by using local materials rather than importing everything.
By December 2016, when the programme began, Mr. Orji said phosphate was bought in from Morocco and potash from European traders at international market prices, while urea and limestones were sourced locally.
To guard against illegal inflation of the price above the N5, 500 official tag per bag, Mr. Orji said a whistleblower’s telephone line was opened and linked to the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA for all reports of illegal activities involving fertiliser.
“So far, we have enjoyed the protection of the NSA, who certifies all the blending plants, organised for the military to provide security, because these are highly sensitive materials,” he said.