Despite assurances from the federal government that it would flood the country with cheap fertilisers, farmers wait endlessly for the commodities whose distribution middlemen have hijacked
| By Augustine Adah | Apr. 22, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE federal government’s goal of self-sufficiency in production by the year 2015 may be threatened by the endless frustration of farmers in getting fertilisers. Despite claims by the government that it subsidizes fertiliser to farmers, many of them had waited for such fertilisers till the end of the farming season without getting it. At the end, it was only those who could afford to buy the commodity at the high price sold by middlemen that got it every year.
Saraya Ibrahim, a Kaduna-based farmer, is not aware of the subsidy policy of the government. When told that government plans to buy phones for them to facilitate their access to fertilizer and other farm inputs, she bluntly said the government was lying. “The same government will announce every year that it will give fertilizer at a discount rate. But what happens? We don’t see it. This same fertiliser ends up in the market and are later resold to us at retailed price.
“The fertiliser I bought last year was at the rate of N 6,000 per bag as against the N3,000 the government said it was selling it. We don’t see the fertiliser”, she said. At the Mile 12 market, Lagos, it was also discovered that a 50 kg bag of Urea and NPK brands of fertilizer cost about N6, 000.
Sopuruchi Madu, a fertiliser dealer in Ikorodu, stated that the prize of the commodity would be increased by the time full farming season commence between April and June. She claimed that the commodities get to her through a dealer whose name she refused to mention. Several attempts made by government to stop fertiliser racketing in the country has failed because fertiliser racketeers in the country are never punished. For instance, Saidu Dakingari, governor of Kebbi State, last year, constituted a committee to prove the corruption in the distribution of fertilizer in the state. For almost one year now, the people are yet to know the findings of the committee.
As a result, some farmers’ cooperatives have made arrangements to get fertilizers for their members. For instance, some members of Nigeria Cassava Growers’ Association, who were disappointed over government’s fertiliser distribution, have made necessary arrangements to buy the commodity directly and distribute to their members. Sule Garba, chairman, Nigeria Cassava Growers’ Association, NCGA, Niger State, said he could not remember the year cassava farmers in Niger State got fertilizer from the government at a reduced rate. The inability to get the commodity at the right time and at affordable amount, has been hampering cassava yield in the state. Worried by their inability to get the commodity, the association has made an arrangement to buy it for farmers this cropping season. “Based on the previous experiences, NCGA, has made arrangements to get its own fertiliser” Garba said. But Akinwumi Adesina, minister of agriculture, who admitted that fertiliser distribution in the country has been hampered by corruption for a long time, promised that the present administration is committed to change things for better.
“Let us take fertiliser distribution for example. For four decades, government was buying fertiliser but only 11 per cent of farmers got it. I have been following this since 1984. I did my master’s degree in the USA monitoring fertiliser corruption. Rural poverty was rising as government expenditure on fertiliser was rising,” Akinwumi said.
He explained that the present administration was able to end the cycle of fertiliser procurement and distribution in three months. Apart from fertilizer diversion, many government officials and their accomplices supplied substandard fertilisers that were injurious to plants. Therefore, the present government stopped buying fertilizers from middlemen. “When we came on board, we developed a comprehensive data for farmers, sent mobile phones to them, no politician was involved and in 120 days, we reached 1.2 million farmers with qualitative fertilizer,” he said.
Akinwumi also explained further why it might be difficult to investigate and prosecute the middlemen and public servants that short-changed government policies in the past. “I am not EFCC. I am a minister for farmers and my main concern is for farmers to get the fertiliser and not the usual middle-men.”