One of the professed objectives of the Muhammadu Buhari administration is to diversify Nigeria’s oil-based economy by expanding the country’s agricultural sector. If achieved, even at an average scale, the potential benefits would be immense, from increased food supply to foreign earnings boost.
To support this goal, the government launched the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI) in 2017 after reaching an agreement with Morocco as the main supplier of raw material for fertiliser plants in the country.
‘‘As we have seen from Nigeria’s five-year fertiliser revolution, if investors are willing to endure the short term ‘start-up’ pains, they will surely benefit from long term sustainable and substantial gains,’’ President Buhari said when he launched the initiative.
The PFI, driven by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), is focused on the production of blended Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium (NPK) fertiliser. The sovereign investment agency said in its latest annual report that Nigeria in the last four years produced 30 million bags of 50 kg fertilisers under the PFI, while the number of participating blending plants has increased from seven to 44.
One company that bought into the presidential initiative is Matrix Energy Group. The group incorporated Matrix Fertiliser Limited (MFL) in 2018, a year after the commencement of the PFI, announcing itself as an integrated fertiliser and agro-inputs distribution company.
The firm produces premium-grade NPK and other blends of fertilisers and says its aim is to boost agriculture and ensure food security.
In the years that it has been in business and participated in the PFI programme, Matrix Fertiliser has bolstered local production of farming products. And just like the other companies involved in the PFI scheme, the company has contributed to reviving the local fertiliser blending industry, making fertiliser available to Nigerian farmers at reduced cost, the NSIA said.
The sovereign wealth authority said in its latest annual report that overall, the PFI project (in which Matrix Fertiliser is a key participant), “has increased the yield of food production and supply, and as such, enhanced food security.”
Located at Dumbin Dutse, a dispersed rural settlement along Kaduna-Zaria road, Matrix Fertiliser Limited is about an hour’s drive away from Rigasa train station in Kaduna State. It has a blending capacity of over one million metric tonnes of assorted fertiliser blends per annum.
The blending plant is sitting on a three–hectare size industrial complex, with an additional 30 hectares for the purpose of research and demonstration farms.
At full production, Matrix Fertiliser said its plant can blend 150 tonnes of fertiliser per hour (3,000 bags of 50 kg each) and its two bagging lines are capable of bagging blended fertiliser at a rate of 90 tonnes per hour.
“Annually, we have the capacity to produce over 500,000 tonnes (10 million 50kg bags) of NPK fertilisers if we are producing at full capacity back-to-back with effective demand from farmers,” said Olajide Aogo, the company’s managing director, during a recent visit by PREMIUM TIMES to the facility.
Matrix Fertiliser, a member of the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers Association of Nigeria (FEPSAN), has acquired a new production line, and Mr Aogo says with that Matrix Fertiliser is now able to double its production to one million tonnes of 50kg bags of fertilisers per annum. This will enable the firm to deliver products to farmers at short notice.
“With this newly acquired facility, if you make an order of even 60 trucks, it can be delivered in one day, and our customers don’t have fear of us not meeting up with delivery,” he said.
The plant has two warehouses with a capacity of over 15,000 tonnes each to meet the logistics and distribution demands, and Matrix Fertiliser is constructing more warehouses to accommodate expanding production.
The compound can accommodate more than 100 trailer trucks, and a fleet of trucks is on standby to deliver products to any location in the country. There is an automated industrial bagging line with loading conveyors capable of loading two trucks at the same time.
“Our plan this year is to supply a minimum of one million metric tonnes,” Mr Aogo said. He added that the company hoped farmers would be able to use more fertilisers per hectare to boost agricultural yield substantially.
The plant, the company said, is equipped with a world-class industrial fertiliser blending equipment manufactured by a leading Fertiliser and Agricultural Processing Equipment Manufacturer in the United States. The blending plant also has high capacity class III Drive Systems that can handle high tonnage blending requirements and long operational hours.
The facility also consists of a blending line with an automated system based on weight declining mechanism, hoppers that make addition of micro nutrient and colour coating possible and a liquid impregnation system. Inside the factory is also a standard laboratory for the purpose of quality assurance and research towards product development and improvement.
Mr Aogo said the plant can meet Nigeria’s current fertiliser utilisation per hectare.
While Nigeria is embarking on the next phase of the PFI programme, the NSIA said its implementation company for the programme will now be under the Ministry of Finance.
By this development, experts say there is likely to be a rise in the prices of fertiliser this year.
Besides producing fertilisers, Matrix Fertiliser has another goal: fighting poverty and positively impacting farmers, Mr Aogo says.
“Primarily, it is for the purpose of making positive impacts, because this is one of the areas we can actually touch peasant farmers,” the company’s managing director told PREMIUM TIMES. “So this project on its own is a contribution of our own quota to poverty alleviation and food security.”
The firm says it has provided 120 direct jobs in addition to over 200 people who load blended fertilisers into conveying trucks and offload raw materials into the factory.
“A few weeks back someone came here to thank us. So directly, we are offering employment, indirectly we are feeding families,” Mr Aogo said. “With this, I can outrightly say we are deeply contributing to our community here.
“In the region where we operate we have provided over 200 direct and indirect jobs, we have also promoted artisanal mining activities in Katsina State where we source fertiliser fillers from.
“The feedback of our products from our various happy and satisfied customers have resulted in the increased patronage of our carefully formulated products which include NPK 20-10-10, NPK 15-15-15, NPK 27-13-13 and crop specific special blends.”
Apart from its participation in the PFI, the company listed some of its other customers to include the Kaduna State Ministry of Agriculture, Olam Rice, Premier Seed, 1-Acre Fund, Capital Agricultural Development Ltd and AFEX Commodities Ltd with combined networks of over 150,000 farmers.
“Our target is to achieve one million Nigerian farmers to use our high value low-cost fertiliser formulations annually,” the company said.
Matrix Fertiliser, which hopes to distribute other agro-allied products to farmers going forward, is a subsidiary of Matrix Energy Limited, a rapidly growing business in Nigeria and one of the major players in the country’s oil and gas sector.
Matrix Energy was founded in 2014 and has grown rapidly to become one of the largest and most influential players in the industry. It is led by Abdulkabir Adisa Aliu, an engineer with competencies in engineering, finance, trading and logistics. Mr Aliu has over two decades experience working with globally recognised oil and gas companies and some of the most respected banks in Nigeria.
“For us, Matrix Fertilizer is both a business and a social enterprise,” Mr Aliu said. “Nigeria badly needs to reduce poverty and unemployment as well as diversify its economy. Our investment in the agro-allied sector is to position us well to play a key role in these aspects. We have a big vision for Matrix Fertiliser. And we are working hard to get there. But we are proud of the distance we have travelled already.”
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