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Why farmers may pay more for agrochemicals

Agro-chemicals
Agro-chemicals

The cost of agrochemicals is likely to go up as producers and importers blame rising costs due to many agencies regulating the industry.

The producers have expressed concern that their products have to be scrutinised and tested by agencies, including the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and National Environmental Standard and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA).

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Since 2016, the cost of agrochemicals has gone up by almost 50per cent, with high cases of adulteration and counterfeiting making farmers incur financial losses.

But the manufacturers said the rising cost was also attributable to the huge cost on carrying out different tests at home and abroad to meet NAFDAC certification requirement and the cost of going through SON and NESREA certifications – a situation they said pushed production cost up by millions.

Last week, one of the producers and importers, CropLife Nigeria, voiced out their anger in an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, calling on him to intervene.

Mahmood Tauhid, president, and Dr Abdullahi Ndarubu, secretary of Crop Life, in the letter dated November 18, 2019, told the president that the multiple regulations of the Nigerian agrochemical industry by NAFDAC, NESREA and SON was a setback to his agricultural agenda.

“Small scale farmers who form over 70per cent of the population may not afford to buy the inputs because of the series of payments and fees charged by NAFDAC, NESREA and SON, which will ultimately impact on their prices.

“May we also mention that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development only recognises NAFDAC registration and regulation as a condition for accepting and recommending our products to Nigerian farmers, therefore, making the SON and NESREA absolutely irrelevant,” the letter read in part,’’ the letter stated.

The input producers lamented that the cost of doing agribusiness was so high whereas they are actually subsidised in other countries.

Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday on the issue, Dr Salisu Ahmed Gusau, who has been in the agricultural sector for 41 years, said the high cost would certainly push the burden to the farmers, who are the end-users of the products.

Dr Gusua advised the Federal Government to critically look into ways of reducing the multiple certification burden on the producers of the critical inputs to lessen the burden on the smallholder farmers who are grappling with the high cost of production.

He said the multiple regulatory taxation of the industry would fuel smuggling activities and lead to many substandard products entering the country.

But the leadership of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) believe that multiple regulations was necessary to critically scrutinise the quality of the product and ensure conformity with the country’s standard and environmental requirements.

President of the AFAN, Kabiru Ibrahim, an architect, emphasised the necessity of the multiple regulations, saying the chemicals are part of the reasons most of the country’s agricultural commodities do not have access to the European markets.

“You are looking at safety as a whole, and this is human life you are dealing with, so you must allow all these agencies to do their work, if not you would be consuming something that would harm you in the future.

“When you try to upscale and produce more than you need, by the time you try to export, they take your samples and find them failing to meet the expectations of the buyers, so you have all kinds of rejects,” he stated.

Ibrahim, who is also the chairman of the National Technical Working Group on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), further said, “When we degrade the use of herbicides and insecticides, the problem of rejection would not be reduced and the residues of these chemicals in the crops will not cause health hazard because even the farmers are consumers.”

Currently, a validated document, which seeks to harmonise all the activities of regulatory agencies in the country, has been submitted to the minister of industry, trade and investment for onward submission to the Federal Executive Council for approval.

Mr Celestine Okanya, the director-general of the Nigerian National Accreditation Service, who is involved in the design of the document, said that once approved, it would become a national policy document, which may end all the duplications of regulatory work.

He stated that the document was very necessary to address the loopholes and gaps in the certification of products coming and going out of the country and ensure that whatever is certified by one agency will be accepted by all.

Until that happens, accusations and counter-accusations will rule the industry.

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