Bringing Balanced fertilizer to the Market

11 Nov 2014
The African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) together with the International Fertilizer Development Center  (IFDC) hosted more than 70 Fertilizer experts in Johannesburg, South Africa, for a training workshop on “Bringing Balanced Fertilizers to the Market: Opportunities and Constraints.”

The five-day workshop highlighted factors constraining the use of balanced fertilizers, a key to fertilizer utilization and high sustainable yields in Africa. Also noted during the five days, is the need for strong linkages and dialogue between policy-makers, producers and investors in ensuring that balanced fertilizers reach the farmers.

Opening the training workshop, Professor Richard Mkandawire, AFAP’s Vice President noted that fertilizer use in many parts of Africa remains a course for concern, standing at an average of less than 10 kilograms (kg) per hectare compared to 108kg in the rest of the world.

“Fertilizer is still not reaching the smallholder farmer and the farmer who does use fertilizer more often than not, uses fertilizer that does not contain all the nutrient components needed to increase production and yields.”

“I cannot stress enough the importance of advocating not just the use of fertilizer in Africa, but the use of correct blends of fertilizer being distributed to the farmer which is critical to ensuring that farmers see the long term impact of using fertilizer,” Mkandawire said.

Paul Makepeace, IFDC’s Fertilizer Specialist seconded to AFAP, emphasized the fact that substantial yield increases to almost all crops is becoming a reality in Africa due to the inclusion of secondary and micronutrients into standard N, P, K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) fertilizers.

Makepeace added that the role of policy-makers and the private sector will be crucial in ensuring that as more smallholder farmers realize the importance of using fertilizer, it is fertilizer that contains all the essential nutrients that reaches them which is critical in accomplishing the continents food production goals.

Eustace Muriuki, Managing Director of MEA Fertilizers LTD, noted that speakers during the workshop were carefully selected in a manner that would holistically reflect the challenges found along the fertilizer value chain. “All attendees, whether fertilizer manufacturer, policy-maker or private sector got to learn about the challenges that different sectors face and how those impact the type of fertilizer that reaches the farmer,” said Muriuki.

Studies have shown that through the use of balanced fertilizer, yields substantially increase during harvest season. However many smallholder farmers in the continent continue to use fertilizer either lacking, or oversupplying some nutrient elements which contributes to low productivity such as low crop yields and damaged soils in the long run.

“It is important that we include policy-makers and the private sector in these conversations, as the challenges in the fertilizer value chain are wide and varied,” Mkandawire said.

“As a fertilizer producer or distributor you can possess the means of supplying balanced fertilizers, however, a favorable fertilizer regulatory environment is needed to supply these fertilizer,” Mkandawire said, highlighting the importance of including all members of the fertilizer value chain when having workshop such as these.