Farmers in Uganda are set to enjoy reduced fertilizer prices with the launch of a mega fertilizer plant in Tororo as statistics indicate that the country’s agricultural productivity has shrunk to 1.5 percent largely due to lack of affordable fertilizer and inputs.
The plant which is being built in Eastern region of Uganda Tororo district will leverage on the huge deposits of phosphates in the area and is estimated to produce about 300,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer annually. The project which was initiated on Monday 18 august 2014 is a partnership between the government of Uganda and China.
The building of the plant is estimated to take about 2 years and with its completion and operation slated for 2016. The mega plant is estimated to cost about UGX1.5 trilion. Over the years, Uganda’s crop yield capacity has reduced due to declining soil fertility and experts have warned that unless application of organic and inorganic fertilizers is increased, this could pose a risk to food production.
According to the Uganda National Household Survey 2005/06, few farmers were found to be using fertilizer – only one percent of the total farm households surveyed applied inorganic fertilizer to their crops. The World Bank has estimated that an agricultural production growth rate of 4 percent per annum is required to stimulate a satisfactory level of general economic development with annual increases of labor and land productivity of 1.5 and 3 percent respectively.
The mega plant’s production is expected to not only increase the fertilizer production but also help its accessibility to smallholder farmers through affordable pricing and consequently meet the country’s growing demand. According to experts, the plant can meet the entire fertilizer needs for Uganda and the rest of East African region based on the huge amount of phosphate deposits in the area.
President of Guangzhou Dongsong Energy Group, LV Weidong, the firm licensed to explore and develop the phosphate industry, said that apart from fertilizer production, the company intends to also produce 300,000 tonnes of steel and establish a sulfuric acid plant with a capacity of 200,000 tonnes annually. They also plan to build a 5MW power plant in the area to help run the plant. “We have assessed the viability of the mineral reserves and confirmed that they are economical. The people affected by our activities have been identified, property evaluated and compensation is on-going,” the firm’s legal advisor, Mr Dennis Kusasira, said in a press statement.
He also noted that due process has been followed in order to acquire the land under which phosphate deposits lies. “Everyone is happy and supportive of the project. We are just waiting for the chief government valuer’s decision so that we compensate those who have claims. We have also already submitted environmental impact assessment to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).” noted Kusasira.
Data from the draft National Fertilizer Strategy indicates that Uganda imports about 50,000 metric tons of fertilizers, a volume that is still below the required one million tonnes annually. The draft document also pointed out that currently the country produces at just about 30 percent of its agricultural potential due to lack of replenishing the depleted soils.
Beatrice Byarugaba, the Commissioner Crop Production and Marketing at the Ministry of Agriculture, in an interview noted that most smallholder farmers do not have access to fertilizers except for large-scale farmers, who mainly import them. “Currently, Uganda is using negligible quantities of fertilizers. We only use one kilogramme of fertilizers per hectare, which is not enough to increase crop yields and, in the long run, household incomes,” she noted. This is vis-a-vis the internationally recommended rate of 200kg per hectare per year.
Experts have commended the firms’ establishment noting that it would harness the linkage that has been missing in the agricultural production chain. According to Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, emphasis by Uganda and other African countries on improved seed for increased agricultural production has not paid off as anticipated by governments’ technocrats.
“Farmers have been given good seeds without equal emphasis on agronomical practices like fertilizer application. Uganda, like many African countries, has been fronting the so-called Green Revolution by promoting improved plant varieties for increased yield but good seed alone cannot increase food production.” He advised that good seeds should be complimented with irrigation, mechanization and both chemical and inorganic fertilizer.