By Prossy Nandudu
The Prime Minister Robinah Nabanja is to meet researchers and fertilizer promoters to find ways of implementing the National Fertilizer Policy of 2016, a date that will be communicated.
The policy brings together all fragmented regulations into a single and comprehensive policy framework on fertilizers. Nabanja made the pledge recently at the NARO Makerere University Scientific conference that took place at Speke Resort Munyonyo.
She was responding to questions from the Director General of National Agriculture Research Organization Dr. Ambrose Agona, as to when the 2016 fertilizer policy will be implemented. He also wanted to know the fate of the fertilizers manufacturing plant in Tororo.
“What is the government of Uganda doing to ensure that the fertilizer policy of 2016 is implemented, we would like to know the progress of the fertilizer plant in Tororo which was supposed to produce about 300,000 metric tons of single super phosphate fertilizers per year?” Agona asked.
Agona explained that once the policy is implemented, it will promote manufacturing of fertilizer, improve the fertilizer marketing structure and ensure the availability of high quality but low-priced fertilizer.
Agona’s questions stemmed from concerns from farmers and players in the fertilizers sector, who during the conference called on the government for solutions to the high cost of fertilizers being experienced today.
A 50kg bag of fertilizers like NPK that used to cost sh120,000 between 2019 to 2020 has since increased to sh200,000. Other fertilizers whose prices have increased include CAN, UREA among others.
The high cost has been attributed to the Russia and Ukraine war which accounts for over 28% of global production of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus (NPK) fertilizers, and that both countries are major sources of Uganda’s fertilizers, according to the Economic Policy Research Center.
What the policy will address
Issues that the policy wants to address are to reduce nutrient loss through soil erosion by 30 kg per hectare per year and raise the use and application of fertilizer to at least 50 kg per hectare per year by 2020.
The policy also wants to stimulate demand and increase fertilizer use, and address fertility and fertilizer knowledge constraints. In addition to strengthening the capacity of suppliers to deliver fertilizers at the right quantity, quality and time and in a cost-effective manner among others.
Status of fertilizer use in Uganda
Florence Nakazi from the Economic Policy Research Center, said that Uganda has one of the lowest fertilizer usage rates in Sub Saharan Africa estimated at 1.91 kg per hectare per year in comparison to Kenya’s 38.2 kg per hectare and Zambia’s 89.6 kg per hectare.
She added that Uganda loses approximately 80 kg of nutrients per hectare per year through soil erosion and nutrient export through harvested crop biomass like maize stovers, beans, sorghum among others.
Of the estimated loss of 80 kg of nutrients per hectare per year, farmers are adding only between 1-1.5 kg, making Uganda the least in fertilizer use almost in the whole world.
The percentage is considered the lowest as per the Abuja Fertilizer Summit declaration of 2006, which recommends that African countries must apply at least 50 kg of nutrients per hectare per year by 2015.
Nakazi added that for Uganda to achieve its agro industrialization agenda, that will depend on agriculture for the production of raw materials, there is need to harness organic fertilizer production but also promote the use of inorganic fertilizers.
Comments from stakeholders
Perezi Kawumi, deputy CEO of the Uganda farmers’ Federation advised farmers to purchase fertilizers in groups so as to spread the cost. He also added through the group purchases, farmers will also bypass the counterfeits that are on the rise following the increase in fertilizer purchases.
“We are encouraging them to form groups so as to purchase in bulk but also be sure of buying genuine products, because farmers prone to counterfeits are those that buy in small quantities,” Kawumi said.
He cautioned farmers against fake inputs including fertilizers on the market that have surfaced in the wake of high costs.
Wilfred Thembo, a consultant with the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) said that although the policy was passed in 2016, it hasn’t been implemented.
“The delay has stalled the training of farmers especially on the application of fertilizers, but also the country is missing out on investments because the policy was supposed to ignite investment in local mineral deposits for the production of fertilizers,” said Thembo.