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African uses more fertilizers to cut food importsqrcode

Apr. 20, 2012

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Apr. 20, 2012

Demand for fertilisers from the poorly-fed African continent is on the rise but still has some way to go before crop yields rise to levels that can significantly cut reliance on food imports, delegates to a fertilisers conference said on Thursday.

The United Nations predicts the continent's population will double over the next four decades to almost 2 billion, spurring a more rapid rise in demand for staples, such as rice and cereals.

On a per capita basis agricultural output in sub-Saharan Africa declined by 10 percent since the 1970s, while it rose globally by 40 percent, Innocent Okuko, an executive from Nigeria-based Notore Chemical Industries Ltd. told the gathering, hosted by Morocco's state-run phosphate monopoly OCP, the world's top exporter of phosphates.

"The average fertiliser consumption in Nigeria stands at 10 kg (22 pounds) per hectare, versus a global average of 100 kg," said Okuku, whose firm plans to start work next year on a 1-million tonne fertiliser plant in Nigeria.

John Vowell, director at of structured trade commodity finance at FBN Bank of First Bank of Nigeria, said he was seeing "more and more demand from our customers for the financing of storage facilities for fertilizers".

"But we also see this small guy with a 2-hectare farm plot who has to decide whether to buy fertilisers or feed his family ... These are the majority in Africa. That's why microfinance is the way forward," Vowell said.

"Fertilizers are expensive, manufacturing them is expensive and few countries in Africa produce them," said a delegate from Burkina Faso, representing rice producers in the sub-Saharan African country.

"Rice producers in Burkina Faso have grouped to ensure better supply of fertilisers and at more competitive terms ... the results are encouraging," he said.

Phosphates are Morocco's biggest mineral wealth. It plans to almost treble fertiliser output to 10 million tonnes by 2020.

Mohamed Benabdeljalil, OCP's vice-president for sales, said the monopoly has changed its approach towards Africa in recent years. "OCP is going to commit growing volumes year-on-year to Africa ... The (African) users will know that there is a reliable supplier (OCP) ... That is new," he said.

OCP plans to establish a "fertility map" for Mali to determine with precision the specific needs of the soil there depending on the crops that are being cultivated.

"We are embarking on the development of specific products to respond to the deficiencies in macro- and micro-nutrients," said Benabdeljalil. Other African countries will follow, he said, without naming them.

Sergio Godoy, business development manager at Norwegian fertiliser maker Yara, said his firm has started to focus more on Africa as a medium-term growth market.

"Africa is such a wide continent. You need ports to accomodate vessels that can carry 8,000 tonnes of fertilisers. The main problems for Africa are logistics and political stability," Godoy told Reuters.

Source: Reuters


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