By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
The N52 billion owed to agro dealers by the Federal Government under its Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme has stalled the distribution of farm inputs to farmers across the country, Chairman, Fertilizer Producer and Suppliers Association Of Nigeria, FEPSAN, Thomas Etuh, has said.
The GES) scheme is a model where farm inputs are delivered to farmers at a subsidized rate.
Etuh stated this during a stakeholder’s workshop to review the “Draft Fertilizer Quality Control Bill and the National Agriculture Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (NAGESS) Bill,” in Abuja on Monday.
The programme was organized by FEPSAN in partnership with the Alliance For A Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) under the Micro-Reforms For African Agribusiness in Nigeria project.
According to him, the inability of the government to pay agro dealers has resulted in farmers using poor seeds and adulterated fertilizers for farming.
These, he stated, had resulted in poor harvest across the country for farmers leading to food shortage.
He said: “There was a change in government and while government is studying, currently payment is outstanding for the last GES which the government has assured they are working on it, for the agro dealers to get paid and we are hopeful that it will be put in the 2016/2017 budget.
“N52 billion was expected to be paid for GES 2014 and there was no GES 2015 but government is working to do a dry season farming this year to have the 2016 dry season farming which agro dealers are preparing because government has given assurance that payment will be made before the end of the year and if not all part of it will be paid but we are engaging government and we will continue to engage government.
Etuh lamented that Nigeria remained a net importer of fertilizer despite efforts by government to increase local production.
According to him, the free access and entry into the fertilizer market because of the absence of functional regulatory framework had exposed farmers to dangers of purchasing adulterated, underweight bags of fertilizers.
The sharp practices, he added, are committed by fertilizer manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers.
“Today, Nigeria remains a net importer of fertilizers in spite of its abundant resources. It is worthy to note that significant investments have been made in boosting local capacity to produce most of the basic fertilizers needed in the country but lack of fertilizer laws and policy inconsistency has bedeviled local producers and sometimes force them to close or abandon their plants in spite of the huge markets in Nigeria,” he added.
The Director, Farm Input Support Services (FISS) at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ohiara Jatto noted that there was need to push for the passage of the bill at the National Assembly.