Africa News Bulletin

Global rise in cost of fertilisers worries local farmers

The global rise in prices of chemical fertilisers have raised concerns among Rwanda farmers who have to dig deep into their pockets to pay for the costly farm input

Local farmers, already struggling to cope with changing weather patterns, are worried about a possible dip in the use of fertilisers, which could dent their yields and incomes.

“This will negatively impact farm produce,” said Joseph Gafaranga, the Secretary-General of Imbaraga Farmers Organisation.

The farmers are also concerned that a prolonged surge in the cost of fertilisers may discourage smallholder farmers, and lead to a sharp rise in food prices.

The government recently announced fertiliser subsidies to help ease the pressure on the agriculture sector, which employs around 73 per cent of Rwanda’s working population, mainly women.

Gafaranga said that even the previous prices were high and farmers were struggling to afford them.

Vincent Havugimana, the President of the Federation of Irish Potato Farmers’ Cooperatives told The New Times that, “though the government did its best to help farmers access fertilisers, the prices are not favourable for their profits as they involve high investment.”

The new prices and related subsidies are contained in the Minister of Agriculture’s instructions on the distribution of farm inputs for the agriculture seasons B and C

The 2022 agriculture seasons B and C cove the January to June period.

The ministry says that subsidies are part of the government response to the “unusual increase in fertiliser prices on the international market”

The new subsidies apply to fertilisers shipped into the country after August 31, 2021, and target the three most commonly used fertilisers in the country –diammonium phosphate (DAP), NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) 17: 17: 17, and urea.

The Minister of Agriculture, Gerardine Mukeshimana has advised farmers to be more efficient and avoid wastage of farm inputs.

Globally, she said, economies are banking on agriculture to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic hence driving the demand and prices of fertilisers high.

With supply chains disrupted by the pandemic, the cost of transporting goods remains high, she added.

Status of fertiliser use and impact in Rwanda

As at the end of 2020, fertiliser use in Rwanda was around 45 kilogrammes per hectare, well above Sub-Saharan Africa’s average of 16 kilogrammes, and below the world’s 140 kilogrammes per hectare.

Rwanda Agriculture Board says that low fertiliser use is one of the contributing factors to low yields.

For instance, while the national maize production per hectare is 1.9 tonnes per hectare based on the statistics from the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, the average yield can reach eight tonnes per hectare if fertilisers are applied well.

Gafaranga said that the use of chemical fertilisers was very important in the production of some major staple crops such as Irish potatoes, maize and wheat.

“If chemical fertilisers are not used, a farmer cannot get even half of the harvest they would get from their farm,” he said.

In 2021/2022, the Ministry’s plan was to distribute 5,294 tonnes of subsidised quality seeds, 50,924 tonnes of fertilisers and 15,211 tonnes of lime to farmers.

With that, average fertiliser use would reach 60 kilogrammes per hectare this fiscal year from around 45 kilogrammes per hectare in 2020, according to data from RAB.

But this fertiliser use activity was allocated Rwf14 billion against Rwf23.1 billion that was required.

Original story on The New Times

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