Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa (Actesa) chief executive officer Argent Chuula has mentioned lack of access to fertilisers and improved seeds as the main cause of low production and productivity in the agricultural sector in the Comesa region.
Speaking at the just-ended joint fertiliser policy and regulatory harmonisation meeting in Lusaka last week, Chuula said harmonisation of fertiliser standards within the region is one way of tackling such issues.
He said: “These meetings are in line with the New Partnership for Africa Development [Nepad] and the African Union’s 2006 Abuja Declaration on measures to increase food production in Africa where it is estimated that the continent loses an equivalent of $4 billion [about K2 trillion] worth of soil nutrients per year, severely eroding its ability to feed itself.
“Yet, farmers have neither access nor can they afford the fertilisers needed to add life to their soils. And no region of the world has been able to expand agricultural growth rates and thus tackle hunger, without increasing fertiliser usage.”
Malawi’s chairperson of Parliamentary Committee of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who is also chairperson of Actesa, Felix Jumbe, said harmonisation of fertiliser standards could lower prices of the commodity by about 50 percent.
“Fertiliser is a volume business and if production is done at regional level where there is more comparative advantage due to availability of raw materials, such advantages would be transferred to other countries and enjoyed by farmers.
“Fertiliser is a key product for Malawi and reduction in price would help an economy which is sneezing heavily due to low use of fertiliser which is now limited to coupon farmers and is affecting tobacco, tea, sugar, coffee and cereals production,” he said.
Jumbe said barriers to low productivity also include weak or non-existence fertiliser regulations and legislation and lack of coherence in fertiliser policies and regulations by countries in the region, resulting in low agricultural production.
The meeting attracted players in the production industries, ministers and other agricultural experts aimed at discussing and harmonising policies and regulations that inhibit countries in the Comesa region from trading freely in agricultural goods and commodities, especially fertilisers.
Actesa, as an agency for the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), is undertaking harmonisation of feritliser standards, policies, legislations, regulations and institutional framework for the fertiliser industry to promote availability of fertiliser to smallholders.