Nigerian farmers warn as fertiliser, diesel price hikes bite

Farmers and experts in Africa’s most populous country are warning that food prices could rise further as the cost of fertilisers has more than doubled.

The average price of a 50kg bag of NPK, a critical type of fertiliser mainly used by smallholder farmers, has surged by 181.3 percent to N22,500 from N8,000 last year, according to BusinessDay findings.

The price of a 50kg bag of urea fertiliser has also jumped by as much as 183 percent to an average of N17,000 from N6,000 last year.

There is a global surge in fertiliser prices, buoyed by the Russia-Ukraine crisis that has cut off shipments from the Black Sea region, which accounts for 30 percent of the major grain trade and at least 12 percent of food calories traded.

“Nigerians should be prepared for another surge in food prices on rising fertiliser and diesel costs,” said Ibrahim Kabiru, former national president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria.

“The situation is already dire for farmers, and now it is being compounded by the Russian-Ukraine war. We would likely experience a food crisis this year because all the indicators are already showing it,” he added.

A further surge in food prices will pile more pressure on Nigerians who are already contending with rising inflation amid a nearly three-fold jump in energy cost. Nigeria’s core inflation accelerated to 15.9 percent in March from 15.7 in February on rising energy costs.

While Africa’s most populous country is rich in urea, it imports 34 percent of the raw materials needed to produce NPK.

BusinessDay had earlier this month reported that the Russia-Ukraine war had trapped four inbound vessels containing over 70,000 metric tons of potash – a key raw material input for producing NPK, putting food security in Africa’s most populous nation at risk.

Since the war started, prices for fertiliser raw materials that make up crop nutrients – ammonia, nitrogen, potash, urea, phosphates, sulphates, and nitrates – have risen by 30 percent.

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This week, Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank Group, while speaking on the impact of the Russian-Ukraine war as a guest at the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre, urged African leaders to be prepared for the inevitability of a global food crisis.

He said the war’s ramifications spread far beyond Ukraine to other parts of the world, including Africa. He warned that the region was facing rapidly growing impacts from Russia’s war in Ukraine, including spiking food prices and disruptions in markets for cereals and other commodities, including fertilisers and fuels.

Adesina warned that the rising costs of fertiliser, energy prices, and costs of food baskets could worsen in Africa in the coming months. He said to fend off a food crisis, Africa must rapidly expand its food production.

Food security in Nigeria has been deteriorating since 2019 when the country shut down its land borders with neighbouring countries. The situation became worse in 2020 owing to climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic impact, and worsening insecurity.

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