‘Why we are establishing more fertiliser plants in Nigeria ‘
Food security is key to the livelihoods of millions of Nigerians. To increase their yields, OCP Nigeria is partnering with the Federal Government through Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority( NSIA) in developing the Ammonia fertiliser industrial plants . Its Managing Director, Mohammed Hettiti discusses with DANIEL ESSIET the company’s investment plans and as his view on Nigeria ‘s future place in the global fertiliser market and how they are also deploying new technology to allow smallholder farmers to access agronomic advice on their smartphones to help boost yields .
With among the largest gas reserves in the world, Nigeria is set to emerge as one of the largest fertilisers’ producers, how is OCP going to assist the Federal Government to achieve this in the coming years?
As a global leading player in phosphate fertilizer production, OCP is partnering with the federal government of Nigeria through Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority( NSIA) in developing the Ammonia and DAP industrial plants to help utilize and transform the abundant gas the country possess as well as the phosphate from Morocco to fertilizers for benefit of Nigeria farmers and neighboring countries. With over a century experience, OCP will bring on board the needed expertise and knowledge needed to maximize /optimize the utilization of this natural resource for the benefit of the Nigerian Agriculture landscape and Nigerian economy in general through downstream economic balance.
Fertilizer production is currently dominated by major urea and ammonia-based fertilizer projects, where does Nigeria advantage lies?
Nigeria advantage lies in its access to large gas reserves, access to international water, huge agricultural potential, young, intelligent, and energetic work force. Nigeria will be the hub for fertilizer for the west Africa region in no time. This abundant gas will be used to produce either Urea or Ammonia based fertilizer, and if combined with other element like phosphate and potassium, NPK fertilizers can be produced from it. The current drive by the Government of Nigeria and its West African counterparts to improve logistic infrastructure e.g rail and highways across the sub region will be a big boost to trade in Nigeria produced fertilizers
What factors do you think would stand in the way of Nigeria becoming one of leading producers of chemical fertiliser?
I see nothing standing in the way, because President Mohamed Buhari has also shown strong support and commitment to see the project come to reality. If you agree with me, President Mohamed Buhari desire for the country has been that of driving self-sufficiency in the production of food and for you to have food self-sufficiency, the country need to optimize all natural and human resources available to it to support its own agriculture agenda. Now some challenges should be overcome includes logistic and infrastructural development e.g. Rails, Road network among others.
How is rising production level across Africa and an increasingly competitive global market going to limit returns in the long term?
Rising production is Africa will help in servicing the increasing demand for food. The world population is projected to increase by additional 1.9 billion people between 2020 and 2050, out of which 1.2 billion will be from Africa. This means the bulk of the world’s population growth is predicted to take place in Africa, hence the need to increase production level in Africa to help cushion the effect of increasing demand for food for now and the future. The challenge before Africa today is such that players have to rather focus on collaboration than competition in meeting the immediate and future food and all round productivity need of the continent
Experts are following the growing partnership between Morocco and Nigeria to promote a large-scale expansion of the chemicals industry. How is this going to increase the value of fertiliser exports?
Nigeria – Morocco partnership has helped Nigeria become a local producer of fertilizer as against been an importer of finished fertilizers. This is so possible with the partnership between Nigeria and Morocco as Nitrogen (that is in abundance in Nigeria) is blended with phosphate from Morocco to produce locally blended NPK fertilizer. With partnership on the development of an industrial fertilizer plant, Nigeria will be an exporter of fertilizer to other countries. This development will help reduce the pressure on the exchange rate as more foreign currency will be earned in addition to the jobs to be created.
When it is the Sokoto phosphate-based fertiliser plant taking off?
The Sokoto Plant is ongoing and will be delivered by the end of this year 2021
You have blending plants in Kaduna and Ogun states. What is going to be the status of Akwa Ibom Ammonia plant?
The blending plants in Kaduna and Ogun will commence operation this year. These blending plants are expected to introduce various formulas tailored to farmers’ customized needs, provide modern production capacity for existing players in the fertilizer industry, help expand supply to meet market growth and help stabilize the market especially during the peak season. The ammonia and DAP plants in Akwa-Ibom which is a Joint investment (JV) between OCP & Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority – NSIA is taking complementary benefit of both countries’ natural resources for fertilizer production and it is expected to be delivered in 2025. The plant at completion will produce DAP as raw materials needed for local fertilizer Blenders as well as Ammonia to be exported to OCP Morocco.
Looking at next year and beyond, is the company is working towards expanding its agri-solution to many states?
Since its inception in 2016 in Nigeria, OCP had partnered with several state government and private entities to provide Agri-solution to the Nigeria farmers. Several initiatives have been developed and implemented to address different problem along the agricultural value chain. Also, the execution of Research and Development project with Research institute to develop the right fertilizer solution for the Nigeria farmers taking cognizance of our diverse soil conditions and crops of interest as we are working on more than 8 crops (Maize, Rice, Tomato, Palm oil, Sorghum, Wheat, Potato, Cocoa, Cassava…..)
Others OCP initiatives that are linked directly to the farmers are OCP Agribooster, an end-to-end value chain solution that provides farmers with access to quality farm input, training/extension services, input financing and market linkage for increased productivity. OCP School Lab (OSL), a mobile soil testing laboratory that provides farmer training, soil testing and fertilizer recommendation. OCP Farm & Fortune Hub, a last-mile distribution channel solution that provides access farm inputs, training, extension service and soil testing to farmers in underserved and interior farming communities. OCP Empowering African Youth (EMAY) project is committed to raising certified young Agric community leaders who are empowered with digital soil testing kits, tricycles and electronic tablets to become agricultural experts who provide Agri-solution smallholder farmers. Other Initiative include Farm & Fortune TV & radio program for stakeholder sensitization and Farm and farm Fortune Digital Platform, a platform where Farmers and Stakeholder access valuable information provided by all other initiatives; such as Agribooster, School Lab, Farm & Fortune Hub, and Agronomy through the Udongo App.
How can Nigeria leverage Morocco’s increasing investment in education and research and development (R&D) to support the development of the fertilizer industry, a knowledge-intensive sector that relies on applied science?
Firstly, Nigeria has been among the topmost beneficiary of Morocco’s investment in Fertilizers R&D. Morocco through OCP is investing significantly in research & development as a means of modernizing farming in Nigeria. Over the past 4 years, OCP has invested over $3m in sponsoring research and development of soil and crop-specific fertilizer formulations for staple crops such as rice, maize, oil palm, wheat, potatoes, soybean, cassava, sorghum and tomatoes in partnership with local and international research agencies such as the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); National Cereal Research Institute (NCRI); Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN); and the National Root Crops Research Institute (NCRI). Other research partners include the Nigerian Institute for Oil Palm Research (NIFOR); National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT); Institute of Agriculture, Research and Training (AR&T), Ibadan; the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria; Nigerian Institute of Soil Science (NISS), Soil Science Society of Nigeria (SSSN) among other. Another area is the partnership between University Mohammed VI Polytechnic – UM6P and Nigeria university in sharing of knowledge and resources, examples of this partnership are UM6P – University of Abuja partnership, UM6P – Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi (ATBU) Partnership, UM6P – Bayero University, Kano partnership. Also is the OCP partnership with Kaduna State University, where grant for research, supply of agricultural textbooks, supply of laboratory equipment and awarding of scholarship for students. That only one of all many, others projects are in the pipeline and will be reveled in no time.
Speak on your partnership with NSIA, FESPAN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to boost food production through increased fertilizer usage?
For the first time in the history of Nigeria, Nigeria was able to aggressively promote investment capital in the development of local production capacity for blended fertilizers through the Partnership between Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), the Fertilizer Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria( FEPSAN) and OCP Africa under the programme of the Federal Government termed Presidential Fertilizer Initiatives (PFI). Morocco supplies some raw material for local blender at competitive price on a Country to Country Support Collaboration to Nigeria, to help support the domestic blending of NPK Fertilizer and create jobs for Nigerians since 2017. Two years into the partnership, Nigeria could produce the totality of its need locally; also, technical support was provided to the players, supporting them to develop the industry. Currently, the country can boost of over 40 blending plant with over 5 million metric tonne(mt) blending capacity, and over 100,000 jobs created, thanks to the partnership.
Tell more about the media and technology channels you are using to enable smallholder farmers to access agronomic advice?
Farmer development using technology is OCP’s primary goal. OCP has developed a digital platform called Udongo, that aims to unlock digital opportunities in the agricultural sector and spur collaboration between actors in the value chain. The Udongo platform currently cuts across all OCP Nigeria projects (Agribooster, School Lab, One-Stop Shop, Agronomy, etc) with the aim of enhancing the productivity of farmers and collaborations in the Agric value chain. Other objectives for setting up Udongo is to enhance collaboration among value providers and consumers in the ecosystem, improve operational efficiency of the actors in the value chain, create easy access to quality inputs and agriculture produce, increase the use of improved agricultural inputs in farming and promote digitization in the industry. This digital solution is available for all stakeholder to access and use free of charge.
Also we took COVID opportunities to develop new channel to communicate with farmers through TV and radio :in deed Farm and Fortune TV show and radio programs are our new tools to reach farmers and give them advise on good practice , also this programs allow them to know their soil better because we do soil analysis for different region. We also invite expert to advise stockholders around farming activities and we evaluate the lesson learnt as we analyze the success story or fall for better understanding and lessons for others; Radio transmission have the same objective but aired in different languages and at different time ;
Aside from teaching farmers the latest technologies in fertilization technologies, do you have software to assist farmers to predict yields?
This is the part of technology called OCP Agro+. OCP Agro+ is a digital platform for soil nutrient management that help farmers make informed decisions on the new specific formulas per territory (site-specific fertilizers) that will help to guarantee yield increment through provision of adapted fertilizers recommendations. This solution will provide a Smart method for developing new adapted formulas based on machine learning, artificial intelligence, and georeferenced soil tests all aimed at increased fertilizer productivity.
Say something about the tailor-made turnkey solutions you provide to farmers in the form of fertilizers, pesticides, seeds among others?
OCP Agribooster, an end-to-end value chain solution that help provides farmers with access to quality farm input, training/extension services, input financing and market linkage for increased farmers’ yield and revenue through stakeholder partnerships. From 2017 to date, 210,000 farmers across rice and maize value chains have benefited on this project and they have increased their yield by as much as 39% to 45% in some cases. Because we cannot go alone, that is why we partnered with several stakeholders to make it possible.Our input providers includes OCP, Bayer, Pioneer,while we also partner with farmer training provider s such as International Fertiliser Development Center( IFDC), Palm Valley, GFFL. We work with farmer aggregators such as Thrive, AFEX, Syngenta, Foundation, Nehemiah, Agrolog, Novus Agro. Financial Partners – LAPO, ABU MFB, Offtake Partners – PANDA, THRIVE, AFEX, GUINNESS, OXFAM,”
Also our investments in the development of retail and farmer training structures across remote farming communities in the country termed “Farm and Fortune Hubs” has created a one stop shop access for farmers to interact with diverse quality inputs providers and every other relevant value provider in the Agriculture industry. This has created a platform for seed providers, agrochemical providers, fertilizer providers and every other service provider to reach farmers at the most remote of farming communities.
OCP SA has been be leading the way with capacity expansion. Is there any way shifting trends in the global market may have put on your company stepping up exports to some rapidly expanding markets? Where do you have your largest buyers of fertilizers?
Across African countries regardless of language, the developmental approach of OCP towards Agriculture is very well embraced and appreciated. We are making significant impact in many countries through collaborative engagement with the local private players and governments.
In terms of growth markets, which countries in Africa do you see as key focus areas for the future?
Obviously, I am in Nigeria, because of its huge and enormous potential ranging from current population, to future projected population, land size, arable land and finally the percentage of youth population. But my colleagues on others region will say the same that way I will say we are not losing sight of the fact that the entire Africa has to develop especially leveraging Agriculture as we have a drive to reposition Africa into the future and spread opportunities for its people.
What is your message to investors outside looking to invest in the Nigerian agric sector?
Given all the above potential in Nigeria, Nigeria will be the next big destination for whoever intends to access the African market.