Farmers in the southeast geopolitical zone have decried the late supply of fertiliser and other inputs, saying that it will affect their productivity in the current farming season.
Some of the farmers, who spoke in a national survey conducted by News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), bemoaned the late supply of fertiliser although crop growing in their neighbourhoods ought to commence around April.
In Enugu, Mr Christopher Nwame, the Director of Enugu State Agricultural Services, conceded that the Ministry of Agriculture had yet to supply farmers with fertiliser.
Nwame told NAN that farmers could, however, purchase the commodity at subsidised rates through agricultural schemes such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), without having to wait for the government’s supplies.
However, Mr Uzoma Ucheobi, a yam farmer, said that he was not aware of any outlet that was selling fertiliser at subsidised rates to farmers in the state.
He said that he resorted to using organic fertiliser in his farm because the chemical fertiliser was very expensive and difficult to find.
Mrs Theresa Okeke, a farmer in Amaechi-Idodo community, said that the supply of fertiliser to farmers after the planting season was certainly counterproductive, as it would affect farm yields.
Mr Romanus Eze, the Secretary of the Enugu State chapter of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said that farmers were still waiting for the state government’s subsidised fertiliser.
He, however, noted that as the current planting season was almost coming to end, it might be difficult for the farmers to have access to the fertiliser.
In Abakaliki, Mr Sunday Ituma, the State Programme Coordinator of the Value Chain Development Programme of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD-VCDP) in Ebonyi State, said that his organisation had begun the distribution of fertilisers and other farm inputs to farmers in the 2018 farming season.
“We want to meet the wants of farmers as to farm inputs because it is our cardinal objective to assist the rural poor in the state.
“The distribution will last for two weeks and at the end of the first week, other field officers will be considered if any of the shortlisted ones failed to collect their inputs.
“The benefiting farmers will only receive certified rice seeds, fertilisers (NPK and Urea) and cassava stems but they are expected to show evidence of purchasing rice seeds before they could have access to the fertilisers.
“The rice seeds cost N450 per kilogramme; the beneficiaries are expected to pay N11, 250 into a designated bank account and use the teller to access the fertilisers,” he said.
Ituma said that the cost of the fertilisers was N8,500 per bag, adding, however, that Gov. David Umahi approved the subsidised prices of N3,000 for the NPK brand and N3,500 for the Urea brand.
“Agro dealers are instructed to procure fertilisers from the Ebonyi fertiliser plant because of the good quality of its fertiliser brands,’’ he said.
Mr Ikechukwu Nwobo, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the Ebonyi Government had also commenced the sale of fertiliser and other inputs to farmers at subsidised prices.
Mrs Anthonia Ibe, a rice dealer, called for more intervention by relevant stakeholders in inputs supplies so as to meet the ever-increasing wants of farmers.
“For instance, we still buy fertilisers at N8,000 for both the Urea and NPK brands but the intervention of agencies such as IFAD-VCDP has drastically reduced the prices,’’ she said.
However, the Anambra Government said that it had created four agricultural zones to enable farmers to have hitch-free access to fertiliser and other agricultural inputs.
Mr Jude Nwankwo, the Programme Manager, Agricultural Development Programme (ADP), told NAN in Awka that the zones were Otuocha, Onitsha, Aguata and Awka.
He said that the zones were created by the Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate the distribution of fertilisers and other inputs to farmers, adding that the creation had curbed the activities of middlemen in the sales and distribution the farm inputs.
“In Anambra, members of farmers’ cooperative groups get free improved rice seedlings and yellow cassava stems, while farmers buy fertilisers at a reduced rate of N5,000 for a bag of NPK fertiliser,’’ he said.
Chief Nnamdi Mekoh, the AFAN Chairman in Anambra, said that the price of a bag of NPK fertiliser in the state ranged between N7,500 and N9,000 in the open market.
Mekoh, however, said that he was not aware of any provision of subsidised fertiliser for farmers in the state, adding: “The only farm input that registered farmers in Anambra are getting is rice seedlings.’’
He said that the ABP and IFAD-VCDP offices had yet to inform farmers of the availability of subsidised fertiliser in the state, adding that only improved rice seedlings were given to registered farmers through these channels.
Also, Mr Donatus Orjika, the President, Youths for Agriculture Cooperative Society, Nnewi South Local Government Area, said that members of the group had yet to get fertiliser through government sources since the beginning of the 2018 farming season.
“All that we are hearing from the state-owned radio in the last one week is that farmers who are interested in buying fertiliser at subsidised rates should submit the list of their names, pending the time they will finally call us,’’ he said.
Orjika, who decried the delay in the supply of fertiliser to farmers in the area, urged relevant government agencies to be prompt in the provision of fertiliser to farmers, particularly in the Southern and Middle Belt regions of the country.
“This is because our planting season in the South and Middle Belt starts from April when we begin to have rains; any delay in the release fertiliser to farmers till July or August, when we are already carrying out our first harvest, would definitely be counterproductive,’’ he said.
Farmers in some states in the North East geopolitical zone also bemoaned the delay in the government’s supply of fertiliser and other farm inputs at subsidised rates, describing it as a major setback that would affect their productivity.
They said that although the farm inputs were available for sale in the open market, most farmers could not afford them because of their exorbitant prices.
In Adamawa, Alhaji Musa Magaji, a Yola-based farmer, said that a 50 kg. bag of Urea fertiliser cost between 7,500 and N8, 000, while the price of the NPK variant ranged between N6, 000 and N7, 000.
He, nonetheless, noted that most of the smallholder farmers in the area could not afford the commodity at those prices.
However, the Commissioner of Agriculture, Dr Waziri Ahmadu, said that the Adamawa Government had approved the supply of 15,000 tonnes of fertiliser to farmers, adding that fertiliser sales at the subsidised price of N6,000 per bag would commence by end of July.
Similarly, some farmers in Borno expressed concern over the increase in fertiliser prices due to the rising demand for the commodity.
NAN check showed that a bag of fertiliser cost between N7, 000 and N7, 800 in the market, depending on particular brands.
Malam Hassan Zabarmari, a rice farmer, grumbled that the high cost of the commodity would affect his productivity.
Zabarmari said that he would need more than 10 bags of fertiliser to nourish his five-hectare farm.
“We are not getting fertiliser from the government; we buy from the market at exorbitant costs,” he said.
Nevertheless, Malam Umar Abdullahi, the AFAN Chairman in Gombe State, said that the late distribution of fertiliser had negatively affected farmers in the state.
He said that late fertiliser supplies had almost become a norm, adding that development could affect farmers’ productivity and, in essence, food production in the state.
“It has always been a problem; late distribution of fertiliser is frustrating the cultivation plans of farmers in the state; it does not allow us to plan well, ahead of the planting season.
“Most farmers usually buy their fertiliser at exorbitant prices in the open market before the government launches fertiliser distribution in the state.
“This is because the farmers are tired of waiting for the government’s supply, which often comes very late.
“The distribution of fertiliser should be done as early as possible, even before the month of April, so as to avoid the rush for the commodity after the launch of its sales,” he said.
In the meantime, the Yobe Government said that it had procured 8,640 tonnes of fertiliser for distribution to farmers this cropping season.
Alhaji Mustapha Gajerima, the Commissioner of Agriculture, told NAN that government had awarded a N1.468 billion contract for the supply of NPK fertiliser.
“The contractor has started delivering the fertiliser and we will soon commence its distribution to farmers across the state,” he said.
He said that the brand of fertiliser which the government procured was suitable for crop growing in Yobe, considering the rainfall patterns in the state.
However, some farmers, who spoke to NAN, said that they were compelled to buy fertiliser at prices ranging between N7, 000 and N8,000 per 50kg. bag in the open market, as the government had yet to kick-start fertiliser sales.
All the same, the Jigawa Government has procured 5,000 tonnes of assorted fertilisers for sale to farmers at a subsidised rate of N5,500 per bag.
Alhaji Mohammad Lana, the General Manager of Jigawa Agricultural Supply Company (JASCO), who disclosed this to NAN, said that farmers could purchase the commodity in any of the retail outlets of JASCO in the 27 local government areas of the state.
Alhaji Adamu Maigoro, the RIFAN Chairman in Jigawa, told NAN that the state government had sold 6,000 bags of fertiliser to members of his association.
Meanwhile, Gov. Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State said that his administration had procured over 20,000 tonnes of fertiliser for sale to farmers this year.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the commencement of fertiliser sales, the governor said that the commodity would be sold to farmers at the rate of N5,500 per 50kg. bag.