Addis Abeba – During unexpected visit on July 27, 2023, Sofia Kassa (PhD), state minister for agriculture discovered a substantial quantity of vital agricultural input languishing at the Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation’s warehouse, including over 8,000 quintals of chemical fertilizer loaded on more than 20 trucks, which had remained parked for as long as a week at the corporation’s premises.
According to the ministry, Sofia took swift action to address the urgent fertilizer shortage plaguing rural Ethiopia currently by instructing the immediate distribution of a significant stockpile found at the warehouse. The corporation’s warehouse, situated in the Akaki Kality district, plays a vital role as a storage facility for imported agricultural inputs. Particularly, it serves as a key hub for storing fertilizers, which are transported from the port of Djibouti before being distributed to their respective final destinations.
According to a source closely following the state minister’s visit, officials from the corporation attributed the problem to a shortage of labor for loading and unloading the fertilizer. In response, the state minister recommended increasing manpower and promptly distributing the agricultural input to its final destinations.
In an official announcement made today, the corporation revealed that it has taken proactive measures to enhance the unloading and distribution process of fertilizers brought in from Djibouti port to its warehouses. As per the statement, a significant increase in the number of loaders and unloaders has been implemented to ensure swift and efficient operations.
The corporation serves as the exclusive importer of fertilizers in Ethiopia, with oversight from the agriculture and transport ministries as well as regional bureaus regarding transportation and distribution. In preparation for the upcoming harvesting season, the corporation has procured nearly 14 million quintals of NPS and Urea. Out of this total, over 10 million quintals are either en route to cooperative unions or already in the hands of farmers, according to the corporation.
Such a statement seems far from reality, as the distribution of fertilizer has been sluggish, causing significant delays in reaching the hands of farmers who rely on subsistence farming for their livelihood. As a result, many farmers are now facing the imminent threat of missing the crucial planting season due to the severe shortage of fertilizers. This dire situation has resulted in widespread demonstrations across the country, with protest hotspots emerging in regions like Hadiya Zone in the formerly SNNP region as well as Bahir Dar in the Amhara region.
From the very beginning, the procurement of fertilizers has encountered numerous obstacles. During his recent appearance in Parliament, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the procurement process was hindered due to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Not only has this conflict led to a significant shortage of fertilizers in the global market, but it has also significantly inflated fertilizer prices on top of fueling illicit trade.
According to multiple sources, Addis Standard has learned that the cost of a quintal of urea surpasses 10,000 birr on the black market in various cities and towns across the Oromia region. This price is more than double what cooperative unions charge. In the Tigray region, the maximum selling price for a quintal of urea is 17,000 birr.
A committee, set up by the Ministry of Transport and Logistics, has been assigned the responsibility of organizing the transportation of fertilizer from the port of Djibouti to central warehouses and subsequently to cooperative unions. In contrast to previous years, when fertilizers were primarily transported by trucks, this year the Ethio-Djibouti Railway is playing a significant role in the process.
A campaign launched last week has resulted in the transportation of over 600,000 quintals of fertilizer from the Djibouti port in just three days, according to officials. To make this happen, 439 cross-border heavy trucks and 25 train wagons were deployed.
According to Denge Boru, state minister for Transport and Logistics, an average of 20,000 quintals of fertilizer are transported daily from the Endode Railway Station near Modjo town to various parts of the country. During a recent visit to the railway station, Denge revealed plans to enhance the transportation process by adding more wagons in the near future. AS