Fertiliser subsidy project starts

Officials of AFAP and guests in a ceremonial flag off of the trucks carrying subsidised fertilisers to farmers for this planting season. The ceremony was held at Serena Hotel last week. Photo/George Katongole

What you need to know:

  • Fertilisers for food security crops have been subsidised up to 30 percent ahead of this planting season to help farmers with surging prices for agriculture inputs. 

More than 30,000 farmers have so far benefitted from a five-month fertiliser subsidy project which is aimed at making fertiliser accessible at an affordable rate.
The African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), an initiative that focuses on market-driven business solutions in fertiliser and agribusiness for agriculture productivity, partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Rabobank Yara, the Export Trading Group and Syngenta with the support of the International Fertiliser Association (IFA) to subsidise fertiliser up to 30 percent of the market price.

During a ceremony to launch Sustain Africa, an emergency response and resilience initiative supporting Ugandan farmers with affordable inputs this farming season, at Serena Hotel on Friday, Joel Kakaire, the country manager of AFAP, noted that the global price surge for fertiliser and other agriculture inputs, needed an intervention to avert a possible food production crisis.
“Sustain Africa is in response to the high increase in agro-input costs. If we do not make fertiliser available at a manageable price, food production will be threatened,” Kakaire said.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, disruptions have been experienced in the global supply chains of agriculture inputs.
Kakaire explained that although the project was launched last week, they had started distributing fertiliser in time for the planting season.

He said up to 33,082 farmers in 83 districts had been reached. The subsidised fertilisers are only available at Yara and ETG outlets and their dealers.
“The implementation of the initiative has been ongoing for the last four weeks trying to get the initiative off the ground,” Michael Surdakasa, the chief executive of AFAP said during a virtual presentation at the launch.
Dr John Mwanja, the commissioner for Crop Inspection at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Maaif) called for increased use of fertilisers. He stresses that farmers must use the right fertilisers.

“As regulators, we are obliged to ensure farmers get the best fertilisers for use. We continue to monitor exports which enables farmers to access the right fertiliser,” Mwanja said.
Government regulates fertiliser through the National Fertiliser Legal Framework implemented by Maaif which is comprised of the National Fertiliser Policy (NFP), The Agricultural Chemicals (Control) Act 2006, the Fertiliser Control Regulations and the National Fertiliser Strategy (NFS). The framework provides for mandatory registration of fertiliser dealers, importers and manufacturers. It also gives guidelines on how fertiliser should be packaged, stored and handled during distribution.

Access and affordability
Basing on the tenets of accessibility and affordability, the project aims at distributing up to 20,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser through 36 selected distributors and 183 retailers through Yara and ETG.
Kakaire noted that they had already reached about 50 percent success in distribution and they were trying to beat the planting season.

Depending on the location, the project recommends prices between Shs130,000 and Shs160,000.
Gilbert Kato, a sales, marketing and agronomy official at Export Trading Company (ETC) says that Urea, which is the most commonly used fertiliser, is sold at Shs220,000 on the market for a 50kg bag but through this subsidy project, ETG supplies the product to farmers at prices ranging between Shs150,000-160,000.
“The cost is slightly higher than the original price but this is relatively low and we are sure it will motivate farmers to buy fertiliser,” Kato said.
ETG is contracted to supply 8,000 metric tonnes and more than half had been distributed so far.
Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, the same product was available at Shs90,000 and subsequently rose to Shs120,000 before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine together export 28 percent of fertilisers made from nitrogen and phosphorous, as well as potassium. Disruptions of those shipments due to sanctions and war have sent fertiliser prices skyrocketing across the world.
Limited use of fertiliser could result in reduced crop yields, a situation that could affect food supplies.
Working on perceptions
Sustainable fertiliser use by smallholder farmers in Uganda has been hindered by limited knowledge and skills.
Fertiliser use remains low in Uganda. In 2018, fertiliser consumption was 3.3 kilogrammes per hectare.
Ideally, inorganic fertiliser should be available, affordable, and profitable for both suppliers and farmers.
In order to bridge the gap, AFAP, employs a multi-pronged approach with extension workers who use demonstration gardens.

“Making fertilisers available is not enough. We have to make them affordable so that farmers can make profit,” Kakaire noted.
Experts explain that only eight in 100 farm households use inorganic fertilisers and about 26 out of 100 households use organic fertilisers in crop production.
Farmers’ perceptions on fertiliser use is usually affected by the cost, limited knowledge and price of the output.

Most of these farmers were not using inorganic fertilisers because they considered them expensive. Other reasons for not using fertilisers include lack of knowledge, limited access and the perception that fertiliser is not beneficial. Some farmers are not able to easily access fertiliser within their proximity due to poor distribution systems.
More than 70 percent of small holder farmers are practising subsistence agriculture with limited income and therefore have poor purchasing power to stimulate effective demand. 
In addition, the presence of either adulterated, underweight or mislabelled fertilisers in the market, has resulted in the loss of confidence in fertiliser use by farmers. 

The farmers quite often fail to sell their produce due to lack of markets or low prices in the prevailing markets, acting as a disincentive to invest in fertiliser use.
“We continue to educate farmers on the right use of fertilisers such that they can be able to boost production,” Kakaire adds.
The initiative, however, is limited to the food security crops such as maize, rice and beans yet the sugar cane and flower industry consumes most of the fertiliser in Uganda.