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Ensuring better yields through fertilizer control

Leadership— September 17, 2015

A major challenge to farmers and the development of agriculture in Nigeria has been the corruption in the seeds and fertilizer sector.
But with new policies in place, corrupt dealers and marketers may no longer find it easy as government sets out policies to protect farmers, Ruth Tene Natsa, writes.
In 2013/2014, the former minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, had said that the massive corruption in the fertilizer and seed sectors was ended within 90 days of his administration.
He said that this was achieved through the elimination of direct procurement and distribution of the products, scrapping of all fertilizer contracts and inputs supply as the scrapping of government monopoly of foundation was seen.
Adesina, who stressed that most of the successes were achieved through direct dealing with farmers and scrapping of middlemen, was optimistic that the nation’s fertilizer system was facing its greatest reforms.
It was not strange to buy fertilizer and find the bag half filled with sand for the price of an original bag. This is in addition to getting soil-unfriendly fertilizers that are more harmful to crops, thereby causing farmers both financial and product losses. In a bid to ensure fertilizer quality control system in Nigeria, the Alliance For a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has partnered with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) to ensure better agricultural yields through quality control.
Speaking at the launch of the AGRA-supported project with the theme “Establishment and Implementation of Fertilizer Quality Control System in Nigeria,” the permanent secretary of the FMARD, Sonny Echono, represented by the director, Farm Input Support Service Department of the ministry, Mr Akinbolawa Osho, said, “Fertilizer is a crucial input in crop production, and its importance in crop productivity, and food security of the country cannot be over emphasised.”
He also disclosed that the legal and regulatory framework for fertilizer quality control would enable the federal government inspectors to undertake periodic quality control at fertilizer production plants, ports of discharge, and market outlets. He said that fertilizer samples would be drawn by inspection officials for laboratory analysis. He said that government has identified some violations in the sub-sector which include plant nutrient deficiencies, misbranding, adulteration, short weight of bags, bagging quality, operating without certificate of registration or with expired certificate of registration.
He, however, condemned the activities of some unscrupulous players who have been ripping farmers off the benefit accruable from their investment in fertilizer. He maintained that the obligation of the government under the policy statement is to ensure and enforce quality control of fertilizer through the establishment of a market-friendly, legal regulatory framework that is adopted and legislated by the ministry.
He said, “The legal and regulatory framework for fertilizer quality control will provide federal government inspectors the power to undertake periodic quality control at the fertilizer production plants, fertilizer samples to be drawn by inspection officials for laboratory analysis, payment of inspection fees, and guidelines for proper labeling,” among others.
Meanwhile, Echono assured that a draft Fertilizer Bill sent by the ministry to the National Assembly had passed the first reading and it’s expected to be passed into law soonest. He maintained that the present administration’s drive in the agriculture sector of the economy is geared towards employment generation, food security, and poverty reduction.
Earlier in her welcome address, the deputy director, Quality Control, FMARD, who is also the project manager, Mrs Chinyere  Akudinobi, stated that the project was aimed at developing and implementing a functional fertilizer regulatory system in the country which she said would address the problems of fertilizer quality in Nigeria. Making a presentation on the project, Akudinobi noted that while fertilizer consumption was estimated at about 790,000 metric tonnes (mt) annually, 280,000mt was blended locally while the rest was imported.
“Unfortunately, the use of unwholesome fertilizers contributes to increased land degradation with the consequent widespread soil nutrient mining.


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