In Togo, 17 Heads of State and Government signed a declaration, committing to develop local production of fertilizers. Africa is facing a big fertilizer crisis, with serious consequences.
Gabon, Gambia… Difficult to know where the tons of Moroccan fertilizers destined to be used in Senegal have gone. Last October, the Cherifian Kingdom, through the Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP), announced that it wanted to supply 4 million tonnes of fertilizers to African countries, including 25 tonnes just for Senegalese farmers. But since then, several traffics have been dismantled. On the Gambian border, therefore, but also in Gabon, where 000 tons of fertilizer, also offered by Morocco, have been diverted since February.
Why have fertilizer diversions been so frequent in recent months? Soaring fertilizer prices are no stranger to these facts. As in every crisis, profiteers abuse the situation. Because since 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic, the prices of fertilizers, linked to those of maritime transport and therefore of oil, have continued to climb, until reaching “record levels”, according to the Organization. of the United Nations for Food and Agriculture (FAO), which estimated for example that the prices of phosphate fertilizers had tripled between the summer of 2021 and the summer of 2022. And the war in Ukraine did not help matters.
Africa's biggest problem is the local production of fertilizers. Dependent on exports from Russia, but also from Belarus, among others, West Africa has almost no fertilizer-producing countries, with the exception of Nigeria and Senegal. Consequence: after Russia was sanctioned by international authorities, Africa had to launch calls for tenders, in order to buy fertilizers, and put its hands in its pocket. However, with supply well below demand, the continent has struggled to meet the needs of its farmers. If this shortage made the happiness of the industrialists, like the OCP, it also needed donations not to aggravate the situation.
Emergency and long-term measures
Can the situation, which is tense to say the least, be reviewed so that in the future, Africa is no longer dependent on Russia and neighboring countries? Last Wednesday in Togo, 17 West African and Sahel countries adopted the Lomé Declaration on Fertilizers and Soil Health. The event brought together many ministers and the presidents of three countries — Togo, Niger and Guinea-Bissau — as well as international bodies such as the World Bank. In this declaration, African leaders pledge to triple fertilizer consumption by 2035, which should double agricultural productivity.
Objective number 1 is to "support and develop local production of fertilizers, but also factories" and to put in place measures, such as the elimination of customs duties and taxes on fertilizers or quite simply the simplification steps. All this could lead to a drop in the sale price of fertilizers and therefore, ultimately, of agricultural products sold to consumers. The 17 signatory countries also want to invest more and better in port infrastructure, in transport and in storage places. Finally, they hope for a smooth commercial relationship between them.
The famous declaration also aims to help a little more smallholder farmers, the first victims of the fertilizer crisis. Subsidies will be allocated and the World Bank has announced that it wants to invest an additional 1,5 billion dollars in the agricultural sector over the next year and a half. Last August, the institution had already made the same proposal, when it planned to mobilize 500 tonnes of fertilizer for West Africa, on which the production of corn, wheat, rice and soybeans depends heavily fertilizers.