Africa: Moroccan group OCP launches fertilizer lifeline for struggling African farmers

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The World Food Program has warned that the global fertilizer shortage could erase $11 billion from the value of Africa’s food production this year and create a catastrophic drop in production. Fortunately, Morocco OCP Group, a leader in plant nutrition and the world leader in the phosphate fertilizer market, has stepped up its rescue plan which could stem the tide. CEO of OCP Africa Dr Mohamed Anouar Jamali (photo) is in conversation with Antwerp Versi.

Small-scale African farmers who produce most of the continent’s food, battered by a double whammy of off-season weather and a 30% rise in fertilizer prices, will find considerable comfort in learning that Morocco-based OCP Group , comes to their rescue; they are rolling out perhaps the largest private sector fertilizer aid program ever on the continent.

African farmers, whose application of fertilizer is still the lowest compared to their counterparts in any other region of the world, face a bleak prospect as global shortages of this vital input have driven prices out of control. reach of most of them.

The fallout is affecting local food production just as bottlenecks in grain supplies from Ukraine and Russia are beginning to bite seriously. China, which is hoarding its own fertilizer stocks by selectively banning exports, has compounded the problem.

The United Nations World Food Program has warned that the fertilizer shortage “could push seven million more people into food shortages”. Grain production in 2022 is estimated to decline to around 38 million tonnes from the previous year’s production of over 45 million tonnes. The continent is feared to lose more than $11 billion in food production value.

Enter the OCP group with a rescue package. “In the context of disruption in the global fertilizer supply chain, we believe that urgent action to ensure the availability and affordability of fertilizers in Africa is needed,” said Dr. Mohamed Anouar Jamali, CEO of OCP Africa, at New African. “We are launching our largest fertilizer aid program to empower African farmers,” he said.

The Moroccan company, founded more than a hundred years ago, is today one of the largest fertilizer manufacturers in the world, with access to 70% of the world’s natural phosphate reserves and more than 30% share of global phosphate products market market.

Dr Jamali explained that the multi-pronged relief program will consist of making 550,000 tonnes of phosphate-based fertilizer available to African smallholder farmers, either free or at a significantly reduced cost.

Of the 550,000 tonnes, Dr Jamali said, 180,000 tonnes will be donated by the company and the remaining 370,000 tonnes will be sold at deeply discounted prices.

“This accounts for about 16% of the continent’s phosphate fertilizer needs,” Dr Jamali said. “OCP Africa supplies about 2 million tons of phosphate fertilizers per year to the African continent and this operation represents about a quarter of this volume.”

Dr Jamali said the emergency operation was in response to calls for the organization from various agencies in African countries struggling to get fertilizers at affordable prices. The program will cover 20 African countries.

“The fertilizer will be targeted specifically at smallholder farmers who account for the bulk of Africa’s food production,” Dr Jamali explained. “Over 90% will go to the production of staple crops like maize, rice, sorghum and teff.”

Allocation of fertilizer relief will be based on potential impact and will take into consideration farmers’ needs, seasonality and distribution logistics, he added. “We will do this hand in hand with local strategic partners, including governments and distributors, to ensure that OCP products reach local markets and farmers.”

The relief program, which will take place in more than 20 African countries, has already started. Earlier this month, OCP donated 15,000 tonnes of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) fertilizer to Rwanda. An additional 17,000 tonnes will be supplied at a reduced price.

Gerardine Mukeshimana, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the donation was “of particular importance at a time when fertilizer costs are high”. She added that 10,000 tons would be used as a strategic fertilizer reserve and 5,000 tons would be a starting stock for a new fertilizer blending plant under construction.

The plant, a joint venture between OCP Group and the Government of Rwanda, will have the capacity to blend 100,000 tons of fertilizer per year when it becomes operational next year.

Dr. Anouar Jamali said the contribution of emergency relief as well as the company’s increasingly intimate relations with various African countries are in line with Morocco’s vision of South-South cooperation initiated by King Mohamed V1. “Her Majesty says ‘Africa should trust Africa’ and that is what we believe in as a Pan-African country,” Dr Jamali added.

Supply chain training and support

He was keen to stress that providing a much needed fertilizer supply to Africa in this time of need is only part of the company’s strategy. “We need to provide all kinds of support to farmers, including training on best agricultural practices for sustainable fertilization and also include supply chain support.

“Our mission is to provide the most affordable and suitable agricultural solution through our holistic approach to the crop value chain and our application of R&D and innovation.”

A subsidiary of the OCP Group, OCP Africa was created in 2016 to “contribute to the sustainable development of African agriculture”. Dr. Jamali said the organization has developed fertilizer solutions tailored to local conditions such as soil consistency, weather conditions as well as crop needs. “We also work with many different African governments, non-profit organizations and private companies to connect farmers to the agricultural services, knowledge and resources they need to thrive,” he added.

Based in Morocco, OCP Africa is present in 16 countries, as well as subsidiaries in 12 countries including Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon. “We have dedicated 20% of our total fertilizer production to meet African demand,” Dr Jamali said, “but we have the capacity to scale up our production multiple times if needed.”

The massive disruption of international supply chains caused initially by the Covid pandemic and exacerbated by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which has precipitated alarming levels of shortages and price hikes, has surely sent the message that Africa can no longer depend on imports to recover from the slowdown in its own food production.

He needs to increase food production quickly and to do that he needs plenty of fertilizer. The fact that it is so far the lowest user of fertilizers in the world and that it has around 65% of the world’s arable land available for cultivation indicates that it can indeed become the breadbasket of the world. OCP Group, as one of the largest fertilizer manufacturers in the world and currently engaged in an $8 billion expansion plan, could well be the linchpin around which the continent can articulate its growth strategy. agricultural acceleration.

Dr. Anouar Jamali says, “Our mission is to unleash all of Africa’s agricultural potential”. OCP has the key – the question is whether Africa is collectively ready to turn the page and open the door.

Award-winning journalist Anver Versi is the editor of New African magazine. He was born in Kenya and is currently based in London, UK.

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