The cost of fertilizer saw a 200 percent spike in price, reaching 4,800 birr per quintal, threatening farmers who are already struggling to cover soaring prices of inputs that are critical to cultivate crops.It is a new development that is impacting agricultural production, whose growth does not match with the population growth and the crop demand in the country.
It is a global problem that sprung upin Ethiopia as the Belg season approaches. Ever since the coronavirus pandemic came into the picture, the global price of fertilizer reached levels unseen since the 2008/9 global financial crisis.
The war between Ukraine and Russia, major supplier of inputs for fertilizer producers, has worsened the situation. Russia, which accounts for 15 percent of global fertilizer exports, stopped the supply of inputs, which resulted in a 30 percent increase in the price of fertilizer.
Though Ethiopia procured fertilizers before the war started, it did not bring much change, as the cost of fertilizer has been surging since last year. “It is affecting low-income farmers and may lead to a significant fall in crop production,” said Issayas Lemma, Director of Crop Development at the Ministry of Agriculture.
In 2020/21, over 340 million quintals of grain was produced in Ethiopia, showing a two percent growth from the preceding year.Some recommend the use of natural fertilizer to withstand the impact of surges in price of artificial fertilizers, including urea. But Issays begs to differ.
“The natural way is costly,” saidIssayas.
Meanwhile, regional authorities have already expressed their concerns over the surge in cost of fertilizer.
“Fearing farmers would stop production; we are persuading farmers to keep using artificial fertilizers and make a price adjustment when they harvest their produce. However, I still recommend for the usage of natural fertilizers to reduce soil acidity and keep the fertility of their lands intact,” said Usman Surur, head of South Region Agricultural Bureau with a rank of vice president.
AchaluBerecha (PhD), an economist and a lecturer at Jimma University, agrees.
“Natural fertilizer must be encouraged. However, to prevent inflationary pressure that could potentially result from a spike in price crops, I recommend the government to subsidize farmers,” said Achalu, warning the repercussion would be difficult to withstand for consumers who are already facing galloping inflation.
Over 63 percent of farmers living in South region, an area which some call the breadbasket of Ethiopia; apply artificial fertilizer for agricultural production. They apply 40 to 60 kilogram of fertilizer per hectare.
Last year, over 18 million quintals of fertilizer was imported,whichshowed a two million quintal increase from 2020. Oromia, Amhara and South regions are the leaders in fertilizer consumption, consuming six million quintals, 4.3 million quintals and 1.2 million quintals of fertilizer, respectively, last year.
The demand for fertilizer in low-land areas showed a significant upsurge last year, according to Issayas.
“Demand is growing but consumption is not growing as it should be,” he said.