Latest Data on COVID-related fertilizer impacts in Africa

AfricaFertilizer.org has published 2021 Q2 data on the COVID-19 Africa Fertilizer Watch. This update covers the impact of COVID on the fertilizer sector from April to June of 2021.

With funding from USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, AfricaFertilizer.org and its partners release regular updates monitoring how government-implemented COVID-19 restrictions are affecting fertilizer supply chains.

Through this partnership with Development Gateway, the African Fertilizer and Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP), and AFRIQOM, the interactive platform is updated quarterly as information on COVID-19 and fertilizer supply chains on the continent of Africa becomes available.

Data points that are explained on the Fertilizer Watch dashboard include updates on ports, fertilizer availability, the spread of COVID-19, lockdown statuses, and road freight.

Regional Highlights

West Africa Highlights

Lockdown Status: During the second quarter of 2021, the COVID-19 cases for most West African countries saw a decline in the number of daily cases, despite an anticipated third wave. Though the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic started in early June, cases have been on the increase across African countries.

Thankfully, with strict health measures and the gradual uptake of the COVID-19 vaccines, the numbers of cases are not too high in West African countries.

There has been a lot of improvement in restriction of movements or lockdowns in West African countries, though some countries are still under some forms of curfew. These countries include Guinea, Nigeria, and Togo.

While other West African countries which have lifted their curfews include, Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Countries are enforcing strict measures to slow down the third wave which is now reportedly spreading faster and said to have far more reaching effects.

Fertilizer Availability: In the second quarter, fertilizer availability and accessibility was adequate in most of West African countries. However, Burkina Faso experienced some form of shortage as distributors held off on account of rising prices.

The situation was the same in Ghana where importers prefer to sell on the open market rather than under the subsidy program, although they have been given contracts to supply under subsidy. With the application season ongoing, the situation has begun to stabilize.

Farming activities have commenced in all West African countries, with a direct correlation to increased fertilizer prices due to high demand during this period.

Fertilizer availability and accessibility is higher in the second quarter compared to the first quarter. In general, fertilizer supply has been relatively stable with most farmers having access to the product despite price increases in some countries.

Ports: Major ports in West African countries are all functioning with strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. No delay or congestion related to COVID-19 was reported. Nonetheless, vessels have to undergo mandatory checks before discharging.

Road freight: In the second quarter of 2021, free movement of fertilizer has been upheld in the region as it is classified as an essential commodity.

Border crossing: Majority of West African countries’ borders are opened except for Benin (where necessary crossing is agreed with neighboring country).

Ghana, Liberia, SierraLeone and Togo borders remain closed. Individuals crossing through land borders are permitted based on strict measures put in place at the border check points. Movement across different countries is becoming easier as more borders within the region get re-opened.

Fertilizer sector responses: Different countries have different responses and programs put in place to improve the fertilizer sector and the livelihood of their citizens. Some of the striking responses from the fertilizer sector in the second quarter Include the following:

In Nigeria, a state government released N300 million to the State Agricultural Supply Company, as a revolving scheme for fertilizer blending and distribution to farmers in the State.

As a step towards boosting food security, another state government presented farm inputs to youth farmers across its jurisdiction under its Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Program.

The items distributed included NPK 15:15:15 fertilizers, Urea, muriate of potash, super phosphate, as well as pre-emergence and post-emergence agro-chemicals. This was in addition to cash for land preparation, seedlings, weeding and harvesting.

In Ghana, through government intervention of Planting for Food and Jobs, subsidized fertilizers are available across the country although not much has been distributed.

In Liberia, as part of the efforts to develop the capacities of individual farmers and farming groups, associations in various value chains, the Smallholder Agriculture Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project (STAR-P), funded by the World Bank under the supervision of the Ministry of
Agriculture, the government launched the second phase of its Stimulus Package expression of Interest to support Liberian individual farmers/farming groups, associations as well as cooperative groups in order to minimize the impact of COVID-1 on their farming activities.

In Mali, government’s measures to support the most vulnerable households included the setup of a special fund to provide targeted income support, mass distribution of grain and food for livestock to the poorest households, and a 3-month exemption from customs duties on the import of basic food (rice and
milk).

East and Southern Africa Highlights

Lockdown status: As the COVID-19 cases keep rising in Eastern Africa, the governments are working to ensure their people are vaccinated. Although there has been some level of acceptance by the public, the process has encountered hesitancy by the wider population owing to lack of awareness and slow roll-out of the vaccine majorly due to lack of funds and trained professionals.

The administering of more than one vaccine in the countries has led to difficulties in tracking which vaccine was administered to who, differing logistics and storage requirements for each of the vaccine variants, and training vaccinators for the different vaccines.

Most countries have continued to uphold restriction measures to slow the spread. There were fears after a few cases of the lethal Delta variant were reported in East Africa, starting in Kenya in early May leading to a subsequent ban of flights to India.

International flights have been operational but with heightened screening while some land borders remain open only for cargo and returning of legal citizens as seen in Rwanda. Countries like Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe have had night-time curfew throughout the reporting period.

Cessation of movement in certain COVID-19 hotspot districts in Rwanda and South Africa has been effected. Revision of curfew hours has varied depending on the level of new infections in the respective countries.

Bars and other businesses such as gyms have been closed in Zimbabwe and Rwanda, while restaurants and other essential service businesses have been allowed to only offer takeaway services or operate within non-curfew hours but with strict observance of the COVID-19 health guidelines.

In most countries, public gatherings of any form such as funerals, weddings, and churches have been limited to a few people at a time. Public transport has also been limited to half capacity.

Wearing of masks in public spaces continues to be mandatory except in Tanzania. Schools have fully resumed with most higher learning institutions embracing virtual learning.

Fertilizer availability: In most countries, no major fertilizer shortage has been reported. In Kenya, there was a slight shortage of CAN and Urea in April.

In South Africa, local producer, Sasol, faced some production issues in May resulting in a short-term shortage of CAN. Consequently, importers sourced the product in addition to others from Europe albeit at a higher price.

In Tanzania, due to the increased global fertilizer prices, the government scrapped the fertilizer tenders that had been awarded in June. With the suspension of the BPS system, the fertilizer market in Tanzania is seemingly transforming into an open market.

Ethiopia has also had to issue a flash tender in June to cover quantities not supplied on time due to the prevailing high global prices as well as the conflict in the North region curtailing accessibility of the input by many farmers.

In Southern Africa countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, fertilizers are coming in normally through the Port of Beira.

In Malawi, the government is working on an exit strategy of the Affordable Inputs Program (AIP). Claims are that the program is not sustainable in the long run. For this year however, they are seeking to increase the AIP demand.

Ports: Ports have continued to operate normally in most countries. Existing contingency plans have facilitated quick responses to crises in shipping and port operations. Stakeholders that lacked such plans had to take ad hoc responses or develop plans in a short period of time during the crises.

The close working relationship between port authorities and shipping lines to streamline operations has greatly improved ports’ performance. COVID-19 health guidelines are still being observed in all ports across the region.

Some ports, such as Mombasa, have registered increased steady growth of import volumes both for general/conventional and containerized cargo. This can be attributed to easing of COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns in countries across the world.

In Mozambique, sea borders remain closed except for essential cargo which includes fertilizers. In Tanzania, plans are underway to revive the Bagamoyo port project that had been put on hold.

Maritime travel is permitted in South Africa on small passenger crafts; however, the government continues to ban all cruise ships from docking.

Road freight and border crossing: There is free movement of cargo across countries. Transporters have been advised to observe COVID-19 health guidelines such as wearing of masks, social distancing, and limited capacity in a truck.

In some districts in Rwanda where lockdown has been imposed, fertilizers can be transported in and out of the districts as it is considered an essential commodity. With increased COVID-19 cases in Rwanda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, governments have limited border crossings to cargo and returning citizens.

Slight delays continue to be experienced at the borders due to enhanced screening. In South Africa, cargo transport is operating normally. Twenty land border crossings with neighbouring states are open while 33 remain closed.

Fertilizer sector responses: Most countries have continued to ensure efficacy in the distribution and supply of fertilizers. The USAID has provided USD 181 Million in a bid to avert famine in Tigray State of Ethiopia.

They have also provided farming inputs including seeds, tools, and fertilizers to help farmers carry on with replanting activities.

In Malawi, SFFRFM has continued to issue sourcing tenders for different fertilizers. The non-profit enterprise, One Acre Fund, has continued to award tenders in Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda for the 2021/22 season.

In Kenya, the Ministry of Agriculture has negotiated with National Cereals and Produce Board and the Kenya National Trading Corporation for the DAP fertiliser to be sold at Ksh 3,100 and not the current market price of Ksh 3,500. This is after an analysis of the effects of the pandemic and increased exchange rates and fuel prices.

View the data here

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