Friday, 13 January 2017

‘Fertiliser blending plants’ll save $200m in forex, N60b in subsidy’

The revival of abandoned  fertiliser blending plants will save Nigeria about $200 million in Foreign Exchange (forex) and over N60 billion in subsidy. It will also create thousands of jobs.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who made this known during the 2017 budget presentation at the National Assembly, said that these will come on the strength of an ambitious agreement Nigeria signed with Morocco on December 2, 2016 to revive the plants.

He said that the agreement focuses on optimising local materials while only importing items that are not available locally.

“This programme has already commenced and we expect that in the first quarter of 2017, it will create thousands of jobs and save Nigeria US$200 million of foreign exchange and over N60 billion in subsidy,” Buhari said.

Nigeria has great potentials in chemical and organic fertiliser consumption and usage, using 20 kilogrammes per hectare (kg/ha) of fertiliser on the average. This lags behind in some countries in Africa, such as South Africa and Egypt where average fertiliser usage is 100kg/ha.

As a result of low production in Nigeria, most fertiliser is imported. Thus overdependence on imported fertiliser results in drain on foreign reserve. It also leads to more demands on fertiliser importation and high prices.

However, efforts to cut imports through local production of fertiliser have so far failed. And all attempts to turn around Nigeria’s two big fertiliser production manufacturers-the Federal Super Phosphate Fertiliser Company (FSFC) set up in 1976 and the National Fertiliser Company of Nigeria (NAFCON) established in 1988 for the production of urea failed.

Finally, the Federal Government sold them to private entrepreneurs. Since then, more than 30 fertiliser companies are said to have been established with different production capacity in different states in Nigeria, including the abandoned Fertiliser Blending Plant in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State.

The Bokkos Fertilizer Blending Plant was constructed by the Joshua Dariye administration, but was abandoned by the immediate past administration of Jonah David Jang. Incumbent Governor Lalong has, however, pledged his commitment to complete all abandoned projects including the fertiliser blending plant as resources available to him permit.

However, with the Nigeria-Morocco fertiliser deal, a new dawn may be in the offing for Nigeria’s abandoned fertiliser plans. And Buhari’s commitment to economic diversification, underscored by Federal Government’s decision to vote N92 billion as budgetary allocation to the agric sector for the year 2017 underscored this fact.

“Agriculture remains at the heart of our efforts to diversify the economy and the proposed allocation to the sector this year is at a historic high of N92 billion,” the President said, adding that the budget was primed to focus on economic recovery and growth strategy.

Buhari also said N92 billion will complement the existing efforts by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to boost agricultural productivity through increased intervention funding at single digit interest rate under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, commercial agricultural credit scheme and the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending.

The President indicated that provision of and access to inputs, pursuing a conducive commodity market to ease exchanges and plugging waste through proper storage would be key areas.

“Accordingly, our agricultural policy will focus on the integrated development of the agricultural sector by facilitating access to inputs, improving market access, providing equipment and storage as well as supporting the development of commodity exchanges,” he stated.

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