The much awaited National Fertilizer Policy 2016 has been launched - paving way for its operationalization. The policy, which brings together all fragmented regulations into a single and comprehensive framework on fertilizers, diversifies the responsibility for fertilizer importation and delivery.
The policy is the handiwork of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).
Launching the policy at an agricultural policy dialogue organized by EPRC in Kampala, the director of Aquatic Science Services, Beatrice Byaruhanga, said the fertilizer policy, if well implemented, will transform the agricultural sector.
Byaruhanga appealed to the private sector to embrace the fertilizer policy and ensure its successful implementation. EPRC research fellow, Dr Mildred Barungi, disclosed that farming households that use fertilizers are just over eight percent and using low quality fertilizers.
According to Barungi, EPRC carried out laboratory analysis of the fertilizers distribution chain and found out that the quality deteriorated by the time they reached the farmer.
Dr Barungi said Uganda can no longer be described as "a fertile country" because literally all parts of the country have soils low in nutrients like phosphorous, potassium, nitrogen, sulphur and boron. She added that if nothing is done now, the country will continue facing challenges of food insecurity and low exports of agro products.
According to the National Fertilizer Policy problem statement, the most limiting nutrients in Uganda are nitrogen and phosphorous, hence the need to raise the nutrient level to at least 200 kilogrammes per hectare per year.
The policy notes that the depletion of soil nutrients continues at an exponential rate that is not recorded anywhere in the world, adding that Uganda loses approximately 80 kilogrammes of nutrients per hectare per year through topsoil erosion and nutrient export through harvested crop biomass.
The policy further notes that given the high population that depends on agriculture and growing population pressure, the soils are likely to lose a lot more nutrients if action is not taken now.
Of the estimated loss of 80 kilogrammes of nutrients per hectare per year, farmers are adding only between one to 1.5 kilogrammes, making Uganda one of the least users of fertilizer in the whole world.
Former agriculture minister, Victoria Sekitoleko, challenged researchers to provide pinpointed findings instead of keeping churning out incoherent figures on the agricultural sector.
Many speakers told the government that for once it should successfully implement the policy instead of making it yet another policy which does not translate into the wellbeing of farmers and boost the agricultural sector.