In this interview, COLLINS NNABUIFE speaks with the Group Head of Commercial Services of Notore Chemical Industries,
Dr Innocent Okuku, on the scarcity of urea in the market and other challenges facing fertilizer production.
Why is there scarcity of urea in the market?
Notore is one of the two producers of urea in the market. And the production capacity of these two producers can meeting the nation’s needs in terms of urea, so much that we can even export. But as for us as a company, we have been having issues with the security organisations from the beginning of the year.
For two months, that is March and April, our products could not circulate in the market because the government security operatives were trying to prevent it. They had this issue of implicating urea for use by the insurgents in North East, so they clamped down on the movement of urea.
Normally, what happens year to year is to sell and ship the products to the market, so the retailer and the dealers pile up these products before the season when the farmers would use it. But we have had eight weeks now where no product was allowed, and this was just before we got into the season where products were not allowed to get to the farmers. So that is where the scarcity began.
So all we have been doing now since after that is basically playing catch-up, that gap of the two months’ supply. A two months supply of an average of 1,200 metric tonnes a day that we produce and supply to the market was shut. So we are talking of about 60 days multiplied by 1,200. This indicates that about 72,000 metric tonnes of products was stopped from entering the market.
We said at that time that this will be a major problem, as it will create an agriculture space for Nigerians. Although, we understood the concerns of the security operatives at that time, we, however, put in efforts to resolve this. It took a long time to get the results; it took eight weeks before we got to a point where products can be moved to the market.
So, if you have a hole like that from the beginning of the season, there is almost nothing you can do. All one could do is play catch-up as the season comes. So that is what I believe has caused the delay in supplies.
Those who bought products back then were supplied at later dates, while those bought afterwards were also supplied at later dates. So it is like a rolling ball. Many people complain that they have paid but are yet to receive their product. It is difficult to supply when there are others that have paid much earlier than them.
Has the issue been resolved?
What has been done is that we got a movement permit from the security operatives so we could move fertilizer. So we get this ahead of every month. We apply for it and make them understand which product we are transporting and where it is going to in the next month. So that means you have to determine what you want to ship in the coming month, so you could ask for permit. Otherwise, we will not be allowed to move them.
It also means that products that will be shipped in August will be products that have already been paid for this month. You cannot pay today and get the product immediately. If you pay today and I have not gotten permission from the National Security Adviser (NSA) Office to ship it to you, how do I ship it to you tomorrow?