By Steve Agbota
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has threatened to shut down any fertiliser plant that denies local farmers access to the product while exporting the same commodities.
The Minister made this known following allegations that one of the two big urea plants in Nigeria is producing for export while selling to Nigerian farmers at inflated prices, making affordability and accessibility difficult.
“Two urea plants are big enough to meet Nigeria’s demands. We know their capacities. But where there are allegations that some people are exporting instead of putting in the Nigerian market, and prices shot to N10,000 per bag of urea, we became extremely angry with them. Thank God now, many of them have started producing and putting into the market. The price is already dropping,” Ogbeh observed.
“But we are warning against the future. There can’t be any priority but the Nigerian market. If there is a surplus, they are free to export. But unless and until there is a surplus, we can’t sit by and watch people selling fertiliser beyond the shores of Nigeria when the local farmers have nothing to buy. And we are saying the same to others. The priority is the Nigerian market.”
According to the Minister, “there is a good market in Nigeria. There is no reason to sidestep this market and go and create difficulties for farmers because there is hunger in the land and government is taking the blame. And we are giving every support we can to people who want to manufacture locally and we will always give. So, we need absolute cooperation from all of them.”
Explaining what the affected firm did recently, Ogbeh said, “they came down some days ago begging because we threatened to shut them down. They told me that the bagging machines are from Germany but that they are malfunctioning. It is not likely. Germans don’t do that. Now, they explained that they have to hire from somebody else. Whichever it is, fertilisers are moving again.”