Buhari legacy

Urea’s N810bn haul shows Nigeria’s export potential

Urea has replaced sesame seeds as Nigeria’s biggest non-oil export product, fetching N810 billion in 2022 for Africa’s biggest economy, BusinessDay’s findings show.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that urea’s export value for 2022 amounted to N810.26 billion, representing 3.02 percent of the country’s total exports.

This is a sharp contrast compared to the corresponding year, when sesame seeds accounted for the highest chunk of Nigeria’s non-oil export.

Ezra Yukusak, executive director/CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), attributed the growth and emergence of urea as the top export product in 2022 to the Russia-Ukraine war, which created an avenue for Nigeria’s urea/fertiliser to thrive.

“Nigeria’s non-oil export record for 2022 reached its highest since the establishment of the NEPC 47 years ago; about 214 different products, ranging from manufactured, semi-processed, solid minerals to raw agricultural products, were exported in 2022. Of these products exported, urea/fertiliser topped the list with 32.87 percent,” Yukusak said.

Findings by BusinessDay showed that Brazil, the United States, and Argentina were the biggest buyers of Nigeria’s urea, with a total value of exports worth N256.41 billion, N212.52 billion, and N60.2 billion respectively.

According to the World Bank, fertiliser prices in 2022 neared decade highs as a result of rising natural gas prices, especially in Europe, which led to widespread production cutbacks in ammonia — an important input for nitrogen-based fertilizers.

“Similarly, soaring prices of coal in China, the main feedstock for ammonia production there, forced fertiliser factories to cut production, which contributed to the increase in urea prices. Higher prices of ammonia and sulfur have also driven up phosphate fertilizer prices,” World Bank added.

BusinessDay findings showed that Nigerian biggest fertiliser companies were also not left out as Notore Chemicals benefited from the supply-side constraints experienced in the fertiliser industry in 2022 which led to a surge in demand and fertiliser prices.

For instance, Notore’s revenue from urea was up 41.28 percent to N29.41 billion in 2022 from N20.82 billion in 2021, with 52.79 percent of the total revenue generated outside Nigeria.

Its revenue from export sales was N17.53 billion in 2022, a 280 percent surge from N4.61 billion reported in 2021.

Market analysis by ChemAnalyst, a platform that provides real-time price movement of 300+ chemical and petrochemical products in more than 15 countries, says Nigeria is in the global spotlight as two of its major fertiliser producers, Dangote Fertilizer Plant and Indorama-Eleme Fertilizer and Chemical Limited, are set to secure a share of $2.5 billion from the $32.4 billion urea market in 2023.

Read also: Nigeria’s agric exports rise to 5yr-high

“This demand for the agricultural input has grown substantially and Brazil has placed an order for 700,000 tonnes valued at N178.8 billion ($387.8 million) from Nigeria just this year alone,” ChemAnalyst said. “Currently, India needs 11 million tonnes, Brazil requires 7.1 million tonnes, the US needs 4.5 million tonnes, Turkey needs 2.5 million tonnes, Australia needs 2.4 million tonnes and Thailand needs 2.4 million tonnes”.

The report said apart from Dangote and Indorama, there are other key competitors in the global urea market such as EuroChem Group DF, Nutrien, and Hubei Yihua Chemical Industry.

“These two Nigerian giants have the potential to rake in N1.4 trillion ($2.5 billion) or 7.7 percent of total global urea sales this year, proving that they are serious players in the global fertiliser industry,” it added.

According to Nigerian Ports Authority’s shipping data, between January and the first week of March 2023, eight vessels ferried out 229,700 metric tonnes valued at N59 billion ($127.3 million).

The latest shipping figures showed that six vessels left the ports of Dangote and Indorama with a total of 269,700 tonnes of urea.

The largest shipment, totalling 36,000 tonnes, was carried on Crowned Eagle. Desert Moon had 30,000 tonnes onboard; Tai Honesty, 25,000 tonnes; Lady Aillar, 18,000 tonnes; Penguin Island, 30,000 tonnes; and Bittern, 30,000 tonnes. Additionally, Vindoniss and Victoria departed from Indorama port with 40,000 tonnes and 20,700 tonnes respectively.