NFQCA 2019 tackling nutrient deficiencies, adulteration in fertilizer value chain

Isola Moses| ConsumerConnect

The raining season is here again. And agricultural practice is back in full swing across the country.

Nonetheless, for farmers to attain bountiful, healthy agricultural produce and ultimately, nutritious foods for consumers’ wellbeing in this farming season, quality fertilizer and other topflight inputs are required.

In Nigeria, however, fertilizer is regarded as an input most farmers have not really had easy access to its distribution and usage.

It is either the cost is inflated, asymmetrical to the quantity, or it is adulterated leading not just to the destruction of crops but also land, or it is hoarded during planting seasons by middle men, reports The Sun.

Sabo Nanono, Honourable Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, presented the National Fertilizer Quality (Control) Act 2019 (NFQCA) earlier passed into law by the 8th National Assembly (NASS), as a legal framework to address some of the problems in the fertilizer value chain.

Nanono has explained that the Act is to safeguard the interest of farmers against nutrients’ deficiencies, adulteration, misleading claims and short weight, fertilizer enterprise.

NFQCA 2019 is also to contribute to the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector investment in the fertilizer value chain.

It is recalled that prior to the recent Act, the government had introduced various reforms to guard against the malpractices, knowing full well that the input is very central for efficient crop yields.

In 2012, the Federal Government launched the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme to subsidise fertilizer by 25 percent while state governments were expected to add another 25 percent subsidy to enable farmers purchase at N2,750 per bag as against the market price of between N5,000 and N6,000.

At the time under the scheme, farmers were to get two bags of fertilizer each at the subsidised rate together with a free bag of either improved maize or rice.

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, erstwhile Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, had explained that the move was to reform the fertilizer distribution system that was reportedly steeped in stinking corruption.

Akinwumi revealed that only about 11 percent of farmers ever got the subsidised fertilizer before his assumption of office.

He alleged that the rest of the input were diverted by fraudulent government officials and shared to well-connected politicians or sold to marketers.

Nigeria, he disclosed, lost about N776 billion government funds between 1980 and 2010.

On face value, the GES scheme aims to weed out middle men, bypass fraudulent officials and sell fertilizer directly to farmers through a private sector-driven process under which government-licensed agro-dealers sell input to the registered farmers.

The NFQCA 2019 contains heavy sanctions to deter racketeers from perpetrating illegal dealings in the fertilizer value chain.

In Section 9 and 10, it states that a person who “sells fertilizer supplements containing destructive ingredients or properties harmful to plant growth when used according to the accompanying instruction or in accordance with the instructions contained on the label of the package in which the fertilizer or the fertilizer supplements will pay a fine of N10 million.”

It adds that an application for a permit or certificate of registration under subsection (2a) shall be “made on such reform and in such manner, and accompanied by non-refundable fee as may be prescribed in regulations made.”

Upon being satisfied that on the application for a permit or a certificate of registration has been made in the prescribed manner “the prescribed authority shall issue permits and certificates of registration to the applicants within 30 days of the receipt of the application.”

The Act explains that a person engaged in the sale, distribution, transportation of fertilizer or who keeps custody of fertilizer shall not, without lawful authority, divert or convert the fertilizer to his use or the use of another.

And if found wanting, the offender shall pay a fine of “N1 million or be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of at least six months or both.”

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