November 31, 2013 – ACCRA, Ghana – The recent study conducted jointly by the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to analyze the quality of fertilizer in five West African countries tells a compelling story. Extensive fertilizer market research and product testing found the existence of severe nutrient deficiencies in bulk blends due mainly to inappropriate blending technology, frequent bag weight shortages, low quality in some fertilizer imports, and degradation of fertilizer physical attributes due to manual handling and inadequate storage. Surprising to some, of all the samples tested, only 0.3 percent showed clear evidence of adulteration. As a result of the study, “The Quality of Fertilizer Traded in West Africa: Evidence for Stronger Control,” the authors are calling for the effective enforcement of a new fertilizer quality regulatory system adopted by ECOWAS in 2012.

The Process
With funding from the Netherlands’ Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS), the IFDC Marketing Inputs Regionally (MIR) Plus project implemented the assessment on behalf of ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA). Personnel from the agriculture ministries of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo were trained to carry out the sampling and data collection of this baseline assessment of fertilizer quality in the region.

The sampling methodology consisted of two steps: obtaining a random sample of 5 to 10 percent of fertilizer dealers in each country and collecting random samples of fertilizers for chemical analysis from each of the warehouses or shops selected in the first step. Questionnaires were used to record additional data about storage conditions, physical attributes of fertilizers and characteristics of markets and dealers.

The full regional report was published in October, and five individual country reports that supported the regional report are being published for the benefit of national stakeholders.

“Against expectations, we did not find evidence of product adulteration being the dominant quality problem of fertilizers in the region,” says Dr. Joaquin Sanabria, IFDC scientist-biometrician, and technical leader of the study. Instead, said Sanabria, the region’s most serious problem is with the quality of blended products. “Creating a good blend of fertilizer is not just being able to mix a few fertilizers together; it takes good quality input products, adequate equipment and experienced engineers to produce blends that are effective fertilizers. We also found that imported fertilizers present quality problems with higher frequency than expected.”

Next Steps
With various fertilizer quality issues solidly identified, the authors point to a list of recommendations that make the report a tool for change in the regional fertilizer market.
“Enforcement of the whole regulatory system is the way to change the fertilizer quality situation in West Africa,” says Sanabria. “Governments must create or improve their regulatory capacities by having appropriate personnel that can inspect blending plants, ports and markets, and establish laboratories or collaborate with private laboratories to perform proper chemical analyses.”

MIR Plus, a policy-based joint ECOWAS-UEMOA project implemented by IFDC, works to facilitate the development of an effective regional market for agro-inputs. For this effort to be successful, national frameworks regulating the production and trade of these products must be harmonized. Beginning to address the issue, ECOWAS and UEMOA, with technical assistance from MIR Plus, developed the ECOWAS Fertilizer Regulation C/REG.13/12/12.

Given the MIR Plus project’s extensive involvement in this milestone, ECOWAS has appointed IFDC as the lead coordinator of a West Africa Committee for Fertilizer Control and the national committees dedicated to more stringent fertilizer control. According to Dr. Georges Dimithe, MIR Plus project leader and co-author of the study, IFDC is slated to analyze the abilities of all 15 ECOWAS member states to effectively implement the regulations and support the adoption of additional mandates. These analyses are expected to be completed by June 2014, with the construction of action plans for capacity building at both national and regional levels.

The Stakes
Such regulation and control in the West African region is critical. According to the international 2013 Fertilizer Working Group organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the fertilizer nutrient demand in Sub-Saharan Africa will increase by a combined average of 3.11 percent over the next five years – a larger increase in fertilizer use than any other part of the world. And with so many more smallholder farmers utilizing fertilizers to increase crop yields, it is more important than ever to ensure that they have access to only the most effective fertilizer products.

IFDC is a public international organization, governed by an international board of directors with representation from developed and developing countries. The nonprofit Center, with over 900 employees involved in projects that span more than 35 countries in Africa and Eurasia, is supported by various bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, private foundations and national governments. IFDC focuses on increasing food security and agricultural productivity in developing countries through the development and transfer of effective and environmentally sound crop nutrient technology and agribusiness expertise.



Courtney Greene
IFDC Headquarters (USA)
+1 (256) 381-6600

Francis Dabire
IFDC, Togo, West Africa
(+228) 99 74 15 50

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