PM orders fertilizer self-sufficiency in two to three years
Moroccan fertilizer manufacturer, OCP, is testing 18 new fertilizer formulas adapted to Ethiopian soil. The new formulas are aimed at treating the high prevalence of acidic soil in Ethiopia that is affecting 43 percent of Ethiopia’s cultivated land, which means almost half of the close to 15 million hectares being farmed.
OCP, state subsidiary of the Moroccan government, is also preparing to establish a fertilizer factory in Ethiopia, as the government decides to stop imports of fertilizer in a maximum of three years.
“PM Abiy yesterday told us that Ethiopia must have its own fertilizer factory in two to three years’ time, and become self-sufficient in fertilizer. Our food self-sufficiency plan cannot succeed, without becoming fertilizer self-sufficient,” said Umer Hussein, Minister of Agriculture. He stated this while receiving 60,000 metric tons of donated fertilizer from OCP, on August 24, 2022.
“Two of the three ingredients required to make fertilizer is available in Ethiopia. The rest of the ingredients will come from Morocco,” Umer said.
The donation is part of OCP’s effort to secure an investment license in Ethiopia. However, Turkish Calik Holding is also bidding to secure the investment license. On July 5, 2022, officials of Calik Holding and its subsidiaries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Takele Uma, Minister of Mines, to establish a fertilizer plant in Ethiopia, gold production and also exploration and production of natural gas.
OCP has been eying the Ethiopian market for years now.
After a delegation led by Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance, visited Morocco in September 2021, OCP’s large-scale fertilizer manufacturing project in Ethiopia was presumed will kick off immediately. However, the investment was delayed as the major raw material to make the fertilizer, which is expected from natural gas, did not materialize yet.
Ethiopia is at stage of picking a company that can extract the natural gas in the Ogaden area.
For now, OCP is allowed to manage two fertilizer blending factories. There are five fertilizer blending factories in Ethiopia, installed years back but not functional. Now, the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) decided to operationalize at least two of these blending factories. The 10,000 metric tons of the 60,000 metric tons donated by OCP, is for these two blending factories. This will be blended with other ingredients, and will be used to treat acidic soils in Ethiopia.
These two blending factories in Oromia and Amhara will be operational as soon as the 10,000 quintal KSP arrives, which is at Djibouti port currently. The rest of the 50,000 metric tons of NPSB fertilizer (Nitrogen, Phosphate, Sulfur, Boron) is directly used by farmers.
“We want to support Ethiopia’s wheat self-sufficiency program, which is launched by the PM,” stated Mohamed Anouar Jamali, OCP Africa CEO, while delivering the grant to officials at the Ministry of Agriculture on Wednesday.
During the Bega cultivation season, which starts right after September, the Ministry plans to cultivate one million hectares of land.
“We also planned to kick off the purchase of fertilizer for the next Meher harvest season, and use some portion of it for the upcoming Bega wheat farming program,” said Sofia Kasa (PhD), State Minister of Agricultural Inputs and Investments at the MoA.
For the current year’s meher main cultivation season, MoA provided 15 million quintals of fertilizer. Out of this, 12.87 million quintal was imported this year, while the rest 2.3 million quintal was a leftover from the last year.
“We have exerted every effort to make sure all farmers access fertilizer. This year, there was no shortage of fertilizer, except the delays. Currently, all parts of Ethiopia are covered with crops, except very few which are delayed for the Meher cultivation season. Coops and EABC are relocating leftover fertilizer to these few areas,” said Sofia.
The necessity of fertilizer increased especially as acidic soil in Ethiopia increases.
“It is difficult to achieve maximum productivity on this acidic soil, unless it is treated. Nora is the first option to treat acidic soil. The second is cultivating acid resisting crops, while the third is using organic fertilizer to heal the land. KSP is a formula that can replace Nora (natural treatment). It improves productivity of acidic soil substantially,” said Sofia.
Though the Agricultural Transformation Institute (ATI) studied and produced a blueprint of Ethiopian soil map, which indicates the kind of soil nutrient lacking in every part of the country, the specific fertilizer prescription and use according to the map has not started so far. Ethiopia has been mainly using urea and DAP for decades, which is currently changing the soils specific prescription.
However, fertilizer price hike in the international market is directly affecting Ethiopian farmers.
“The price skyrocketed this year. For instance, our farmers had to pay 4,600 birr per quintal. This was just 1,800 birr last year. That is why the government subsidized 15 billion birr for fertilizer this year alone. This means we are subsidizing 1,100 birr per quintal. So our farmers are paying only 3,500 birr, instead of 4,600 birr per quintal,” Sofia remarked.
However, the state minister says OCP is not the only fertilizer producer the Ethiopian government has in mind for the new initiative of import substitution in fertilizer. “We are thinking there will be other fertilizer investors, other than OCP,” added the state minister.