Agriculture: Tanzania to start building $3 bn fertiliser plant this year

Tanzania currently imports most of its fertiliser for crops including coffee, sugar and maize. File photo©ReutersTanzania plans to start work this year on a $3 billion fertiliser plant, which it said on Friday will be Africa's largest, as part of an effort to increase its agricultural production.

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Mining: Phosphate, the green ore glimmers

Photo©ReutersLow prices are not putting off international investors, who are piling into the phosphates sector in Togo, Guinea-Bissau, Gabon and Senegal, confident of future fertiliser needs.

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Ghana to distribute free fertiliser to cocoa farmers

Photo©ReutersGhana will begin the free distribution of fertiliser to cocoa farmers this year in a renewed effort by the world's second largest exporter to boost crop yields, industry regulator Cocobod said on Thursday.

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Getting real in Nigeria

Aliko Dangote gets miked up to tell Nigeria: business is in charge. Photo©ReutersNigerian governments seem to be echoing the advice of China's Deng Xiaoping three decades ago: "Let some people get rich first." President Jonathan is lauding the plan of Aliko Dangote, the country's leading capitalist, to borrow billions to fund an oil refinery and fertiliser plant. If it works, it may launch an industrial revolution.

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Agriculture: Fertilisers and franchises put power in Nigerian farmers' hands

Farmers in Osun State receive a new strain of cassava as part of the government’s push for the crop/Photo©PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFPWith strong leadership in government, both public and private programmes target farmers' real needs, while a cassava offensive finally reaps some rewards.

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Agriculture: Brown gold jackpot

altLast year's bumper cocoa crop masks a reluctance to invest in other agricultural sectors.

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Ghana: Farmers to enjoy seeds, fertilizer subsidies

Ghana aims to double the current maize production/Photo/ReutersThe Ghanaian government says it will subsidise certified seeds and liquid fertiliser for farmers this year as part of a holistic approach to step up farm-level productivity.

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Producing the cream of the crop

altCheap technological advances, new mapping techniques and specialised corridors are taking African producers even closer to a revolution in agricultural productivity   

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Agriculture: A new class of farmer

tobaccoOutput of Southern Africa’s former breadbasket has nose-dived, but getting seeds, fertiliser and equipment into the hands of Zimbabwe’s farmers will restart the rattled economy

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Interview: Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria


The Africa Report: Several African capitals were torn up by food riots earlier this year. Do you think African leaders got the message??


OLUSEGUN OBASANJO: I believe they did. What I cannot say for sure is whether they then employed the right policy to deal with the challenge. For instance, the first reaction of Nigeria’s government was to make N80bn ($590m) available for the importation of rice. That is a short-sighted policy. I believe some went for quick short-term solutions, which is no solution to me. And I can honestly say that the reaction time for some of them was rather slow. They are making progress, not fast enough, but they are making progress. Later on, my country said that they had no crisis. And Nigeria really shouldn’t have a crisis.?


Nigeria has so much natural gas – why is there no fertiliser factory in Nigeria??


We had a national one. It was run down. And I am a strong believer now that government is not a good producer. So government should provide a conducive environment for the private sector to thrive and invest and, if they consider it necessary, the government should help move the market.?


So do you think there is a role for the state in, for example, helping agricultural banks??


What we did in Nigeria worked. We have an agricultural bank – but how far does it go? We have a country with 150m people, a surface area of 1m km². What we did was ask the commercial banks to provide agricultural credit and the central bank guaranteed it. They then gave a ceiling to the rate of interest on borrowing. And whatever they think they lose on that capped rate of interest, the central bank makes adjustments for them, either in their tax payments or whatever. And it worked.?


You say it is a question of political will for improvements in agriculture, that we already have the solutions and it’s now a question of making it happen. You managed to create a space for your reform team to operate. How did you do that?


?To me, the first responsibility of a leader is to pick the right collaborators. The second responsibility of a leader is to lead. That’s why you are called a leader. If you are not going to lead, you have no business being called a leader. And that will mean that you have to take certain positions. At times you have to be the one to actually explain to people where you want them to go. I always say that a leader should not lead people to where they want to go, but should lead them to where they should go.?


The large rise in protein consumption in Asia is one of the reasons why food prices have been going up around the world. Do you think Africa should be dreaming of feeding Asia??


Africa has the landmass to do it. And the soil is not particularly bad. It should be able to conveniently feed itself and conveniently feed a substantial part of Asia. What we would need to do that, we already have: the research results are there. The Indian ‘green revolution’ began in the 1960s. The products are there, but where we always go wrong is in getting all the other necessary elements to come together, like infrastructure, finance and policy.


?It’s like trying to make a good pot of soup. You want it to be tasty and so on. There are certain ingredients that must go into it. And if those ingredients don’t go into it at the right quantity, or at the time that they should go, you will have a pot of soup that is not palatable, or the ingredients don’t go together well. If you have six months of rainfall, and you have to import fertiliser, your fertiliser must be in place at least one month before the rain starts. But if after four months of rain your fertiliser is still being cleared from the port, the farmer has lost that year. ?


So you need to have all those things in place, and the CGIAR [Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research] have the right products to help us get there. But we just don’t have that mix of inputs we need. And when you have that it can work. In Nigeria over the last five years, there is no key crop that we did not increase by a minimum of 30%, including rice. Cocoa was increased by over 100%

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