By Udo Akam-Alo, ABAKALIKI
The Commissioner for Commerce and Industry who doubles as the General Manager, Ebonyi State Fertilizer and Chemical Company Ltd, Engr Prof. Ogbonnaya Chukwu has decried the rate at which Agro-Dealers are adulterating fertilizers.
Interacting with Newsmen in Abakaliki, the Commissioner said it is a major problem in the company and the country at large.
According to him, “Adulteration is our main problem. Yesterday, I inaugurated a Task Force on adulteration, they are eight (8) Civilians. They will go out just like they did last year, some of the cases are still in Court but I have adopted my own method as far as it doesn’t mean we are trampling on anybody’s legal right.
“If we discover you adulterated fertilizer, we won’t sell to you; yes we can tell you ‘go with your money, we won’t sell to you and you go to other fertilizer blending plants to buy but you can’t sell in Ebonyi.
“We will use the force of Government on you. You can’t sell because you won’t tell us you did not adulterate it. So that is one of the measures because that is one of the greatest problem we have today in Nigeria – adulteration of fertilizer which can come in different forms.
“When we talk about adulteration, you think adulteration is just that they are using wrong raw material(s), no, the greatest form of adulteration first and foremost is underweight, underweighing the bag is the worst form that can also affect the crops.
“For instance now, if you have one hectare of rice farm, you are supposed to apply 4 bags of NPK 20:10:10 on it, you do topdressing with 2 bags of Urea, that’s the standard for the crop to do very well.
“Now, a bag of fertilizer is 50kg multiplied by 4, a hectare should receive 200kg, if you underweigh to let’s say 45kg, you are giving 180kg to the same size of farm. The crops will not get what they want because the crops will not talk but they will talk one day during harvest, you will know they are outspoken because they will not do well, you will have a poor yield. That is a form of adulteration, under-weighing.
“Another form is ‘tinkering with the recipe.’ If I’m doing NPK 20:10:10, the recipe is different from that of 15:15:15. For instance, if I’m doing 20:10:10, a bag of it should contain 21%DAP, 16%MOP, 36%Urea and 27%Limestone Granules.
“Now, if I tamper with them, especially the most active ingredients: DAP, MOP and Urea by reducing the quantity and increase that of the Limestone Granules, Limestone does not do much in fertilizer production and that’s why we call it ‘filler'(it’s just to occupy space) but it’s very important because it acts as a base to reduce the acidity of the soil because by using inorganic fertilizer, you are increasing the soil acidity and most crops do not tolerate acidic soil so, that’s why we use base which is essentially Calcium carbonate(chalk).
“So the main function is to reduce the acidity of the soil and it is the cheapest of all the raw materials. If you just go and make it 60% and do the other ones just to make your 100%, it is still fertilizer but you have changed the recipe. It is still adulteration which is always very dangerous for crops because they will not even do well.
“Another form of adulteration is you take a bag of NPK 20:10:10 from us, you go out there take a bag of 27:13:13 and pour it into it and seal it back and sell it as NPK 27:13:13 – very dangerous to farmers and to crops because when you use it to farm rice, you are not to do topdressing with Urea.”
He however noted that increased cost is not a welcomed excuse for adulteration, advocating his preference to sell quality rather than quantity as a result of adulteration to the detriment of farmers, saying an Agro-Dealer defaulter has been trapped down.
“Because fertilizer is very costly this year does not mean I will adulterate, I can make it more costly and prepare to increase price here better than to adulterate and that’s why I told Agro-Dealers “you can never get adulteration to come from here. It’s from them, we know some of them, some have been identified already.
“Some of them do it in their house because they have stitching machines there but when we start, if you don’t have a warehouse, you will not sell.
“I have blacklisted one this year based on the information I got, he cannot buy here and I told him that I didn’t mention his name when we met on Tuesday. I said it clearly, if you have been identified, forget it, we will not sell to you and you will not sell in Ebonyi. If you bring from another place, you will not sell in Ebonyi because there is no guarantee if you adulterate,” he reiterated.
Prof. Ogbonnaya further maintained that the Agro-Dealers are the brains behind this adulteration, noting that blending plants can rarely adulterate, especially under the supervision of the Federal Government monitoring agents.
“It is very very rare for a Blending Plant to adulterate; very very rare, you know why? You will not know when they come because here we are policed by the Federal Government, there are Collateral Managers also working with us.