By Hussein Yahaya
The Chairman of Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), Mr Thomas Etuh, has said that the country will be ready to export fertilizer within the next two years if current gains of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) are sustained.
Already, Etuh said Nigeria is selling the important agro input to some of its neighbours, like Benin Republic, Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic, a development which he noted, will help restore the country’s position as the food basket of the West African sub-region.
The export opportunity from fertilizer, he revealed, would be made possible by increased local production of the input that has ramped up from a mere 500,000 metric tonnes pre-2015 to close to 2 million metric tonnes currently.
Mr Etuh, who made this known in Abuja, commended President Muhammadu Buhari for initiating the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, which he said, has helped farmers access the critical agricultural input at affordable prices thereby reducing their overheads, boosting yield and encouraging more players to invest in the agriculture value chain.
“Before the conceptualization and activation of the PFI, we had a situation where there were 32 fertilizer blending plants in Nigeria that were moribund. Out of this number, only five blending plants were functional and even then, they were producing at 10 percent capacity on the average and that was because of excessive emphasis on importation.
“This also meant, by its very implication, that we were exporting our jobs even when we cannot provide jobs here in Nigeria. Foreign exchange that is scarce is spent building other people’s economies,” he stated.
He said Nigerians must make concerted efforts to show commitment towards solving the employment challenges that have been mounting in the country over the past decades, and expressed confidence that one of the critical planks of reversing the trend was sustained investment in agriculture in a creative way as not to create losses on both the government and the people.
He further commended Buhari for showing what he called the “political will” that has made it possible for the initiative to become a huge success, expressing his optimism that the journey towards food security in Nigeria may well have begun on a sound footing with the huge impact the PFI programme has made on the volume of food production in the country within only two years.
“We are lucky that we have a president that has the interest and political will to make a difference and he is ready to make this initiative work from the very start. And those of us in the fertilizer blending industry have no option but to key into this willingness.
“We were made to understand that beyond the profits necessary for our businesses, it was important for us to see the project as critical to nation building; we were made to appreciate the roles we had to play, first as citizens and then as businesses,” he continued.
On how to measure the results of the scheme, Mr Etuh said the evidence was easily noticeable in the increasing volume of production of staples like rice and maize by farmers in the country, crediting it to the increased appetite for the purchase of fertilizers.