Farmers in Africa’s most populous country are starting to ditch the use of fertilisers for their soil nutrients as prices of NPK – a fertiliser blend mostly used by them — jumped 250 percent, owing to the Russia-Ukraine war.
Smallholder farmers who spoke with BusinessDay say they are mixing poultry waste, ash, cow dung, and food waste with fertilisers to use on their farms.
“Our production costs keep rising owing to the surge in input prices such as fertiliser. A 50kg bag of NKP I bought for N12,000 in January now sells for N28,000,” Musa Idris, a farmer in Nasarawa State who cultivates maize, rice, and other crops, said in response to questions.
“I couldn’t afford to buy the quantity of fertiliser I need. So, I now mix food waste I collect from the market with fertiliser to use on my farm,” he said. “This has reduced the number of the bags of fertiliser I would have bought and also my production cost.”
BusinessDay interviewed a dozen of farmers across the country and found that a 50kg bag of NPK 15:15:15 now goes for an average of N28,000 as against N8,000 a year ago, indicating a 250 percent increase. On a year-to-date basis, it has risen by 100 percent.
While a 50kg bag of NPK 20:10:10, which is produced under the Nigeria-Morocco fertiliser deal, is sold for an average of N14,500.
Abiodun Olorundenro, operations manager of Aquashot Limited, a firm that grows grains in the South-West region, also confirms that he now mixes poultry waste with fertilisers for his soil nutrients.
“The continuous surge in fertiliser prices is forcing lots of farmers to reduce their production area as most of us cannot afford to buy the quantity of fertiliser we would need,” he said.
According to him, the problem with using organic manure now is that the result is not as quick as that of fertilisers as it requires more time to mix properly with the soil.
“You don’t get the immediate impact on the crop when you augment organic manure in place of fertiliser. It takes time before you start seeing the results unlike fertiliser with his immediate,” he added.
Olorundenro attributed the situation to the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war and the foreign exchange volatility in Nigeria.
Since the war broke out, Nigeria has seen a shortfall in the supply of potash – a key ingredient in the production of NPK — as the war trapped four inbound vessels containing over 70,000 metric tonnes of potash.
The situation is not just a Nigerian problem, but a global phenomenon. Global fertiliser prices are also surging as the region is a major exporter of potash, ammonia, urea, and other soil nutrients, according to a note from the International Food Policy Research Institute.
While Nigeria imports the raw materials for the production of NPK, it is rich in urea – another blend of fertiliser.
However, the prices of urea blends are also surging. A 50kg bag of different urea brands (Indorama, Notore, and Dangote) is sold for between N19,000 and N22,000 as against N8,500 and N9,000 last year.
“Farmers can’t afford to buy fertiliser since the subsidies were removed last year and the war in Ukraine has compounded the issue. No farmer can buy a bag of fertiliser for N28,000 and expect to break even.” Ibrahim Kabiru, a farmer in Katsina, said.
“It is a welcome development that farmers are now embracing organic manure,” he said.
He said the situation was one of the factors fuelling the increase in food prices, saying the rising cost of fertilisers would also further reduce the country’s fertiliser application, which was already one of the lowest globally.
Nigeria’s food inflation hit 18.37 percent in April, from 17.2 percent recorded in May, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.