FG Bars Officials from Production, Sale of Fertilizer

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono

Registers 5m smallholder farmers under subsidy scheme

By James Emejo and Folalumi Alaran

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, yesterday said the ministry officials had been barred from further participation in the production and sake of fertilizer going forward.

The minister said the primary role of the ministry would henceforth be restricted to quality control, pricing and delivery of the commodity.

Speaking at the opening of a consultative meeting with relevant stakeholders on the development of template for the administration of subsidy to the smallholder farmers on sustainable basis, Nanono fertilizer sale and production, “is not our business now” adding that the current target was to ensure that fertiliser reached the small scale farmers.

He said: “I wish to state categorically that our target is for small scale farmers. Secondly, the primary role of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture would now be quality control, price and delivery.

“There is no more ministry participation in the production of selling of fertiliser, that is not our business now.”

He said the intention of the federal government was to make fertilizer private sector driven in such a way that every farmer in country would readily access the commodity.

This is as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said the goal of the proposed fertiliser subsidy scheme” is not simply to transfer subsidies to farmers. No, our design principle is to reward behavior such as purchase of fertilizer by data-identified smallholder farmers as opposed to simply wire monies to anyone who claims to be smallholder farmers or subsidising large-scale farmers.”

Nanono, however, said preparatory to the provision of the subsidy support for farmers, about five million farmers had so far been registered with biometrics as well as captured through the farm GIS coordinates.

He pointed out that the ministry had developed the database of the smallholder farmers for easy targeting with the fertilizer subsidy support.

According to him, the primary concern of the federal government is how to get majority of the smallholder farmers out of extreme poverty through targeted support in order to increase their level of productivity, household incomes and by extension guarantee food security for the country.

Nanono stressed that in order to support the teeming smallholder farmers, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved that an implementation template be developed through consultative engagement with the relevant stakeholders on the best way of administering fertiliser subsidy to the them nationwide on sustainable basis.

Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mr. Aliyu Ahmed, the finance minister said the meeting had been convened at the instance of Buhari to discuss how to effectively implement a restructured Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) for its sustainability.

She noted that the objective of the PFI was to stop the importation of specifically NPK fertilisers and pave the way for its local production, thereby reviving the Nigeria’s local fertiliser blending industry.

Ahmed said while the initiative, which is a Public-private Partnership – with the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) representing the public- had achieved great progress, “it’s time to shift gears for market-oriented sustainability”.

She said the engagement will be guided by four fundamental changes upon which sustainability will be built upon.

According to her:”The role of NAIC-NPK be restricted to the importation of the raw materials, monitoring activities and provision of cost basis for FGN to effectively calculate and pay subsidies as for vulnerable smallholder farmers.

“All fertilizer blending plants participating in the PFI now have to provide bank guarantees to cover requisite raw materials appropriate to their demand-driven production in order to substantially reduce risk to NSIA.

“All blending plants are to handle their transportation logistics, recover their production cost and profits through the sale of their products in the market.

“The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning (FMFBNP) through engagement with state governments and relevant stakeholders to develop a template for administering fertilizer subsidy management framework to the smallholder farmers.”

Ahmed said the engagement will allow stakeholders to brainstorm together and align on a data driven, commercially sound, and financially prudent and farmer friendly framework for targeted subsidisation of fertilisers.

She also charged participants to deliberate on how to deliver smart subsidies on need basis linked to the exact land holding of the farmer as verified by farmer-farm data , adding that the subsidy can be delivered as a voucher while the government leverages technology to match farmer requests to their land holdings.

She said:”This means that monies for subsidies can continue to be domiciled in government accounts and periodically settlement operations occur as pre-qualified beneficiary farmers use their mobile phones to text in their subsidy claims that cannot exceed the fertiliser requirement of geo-tagged farm sizes.”