Tigray Authorities Thwart Fake Fertiliser Distribution

Mekelle፡30 May 2024 (Tigray Herald)

A disturbing discovery of counterfeit fertiliser that infiltrated Tigray Regional State earlier this year was unveiled by the region’s Agriculture Bureau during an inter-regional performance report last week. Eyasu Abraha, head of the Bureau and former Minister of Agriculture, reported finding four trucks carrying blue and white plastic disguised as urea in the region. This revelation came as a surprise to the Ministry of Agriculture authorities, who had not been previously informed.

The discovery is particularly concerning as Tigray wrestles with recovery from the two-year conflict followed by a devastating drought. Last year’s drought destroyed nearly two-thirds of the region’s 15 million quintal production. The presentation, held at the Hilton Addis on Menelik Avenue, marked the first time in four years that the region presented its progress to federal authorities. It was attended by senior officials, including Minister Girma Amente (PhD).

Eyasu expressed strong disapproval that individuals or businesses outside a cooperative union should be involved in the sale or distribution of fertiliser. He condemned the practice of introducing plastic, which takes 30 years to biodegrade, into the illegal market.

“These are not businessmen,” Eyasu told Fortune.

He noted that fortunately, all the trucks carrying counterfeit fertiliser were apprehended. He said a massive awareness campaign has been launched to ensure that farmers do not engage with any businessmen who claim to have access.

“We’re hopeful this year,” he said.

Experts from the Bureau recall the efforts to seize the fake urea.

According to Tadesse Gebre, an expert at the Bureau, farmers were desperate in July and August, and contacted vendors who claimed to have fertiliser shipments from the nearby Afar Regional State. He said a coordinated effort, following tips from anonymous sources, led to the capture of three individuals; assessments by experts confirmed that the shipments, made in two rounds, contained inputs used for plastic and tyre manufacturing.

“We stopped it before it reached the farmers,” Tadesse told Fortune.

Tadesse said that about 600,000qtls of fertiliser have already been delivered in the region.

“Shipments are significantly better for now,” he said.

While the report marks the first encounter in Ethiopia, neighbouring Kenya has faced a massive scandal involving government-distributed stocks of fake fertilisers. The local media confirmed that fake subsidised fertiliser known as GPC Plus Organics — packaged in 25Kg bags — was circulating the market last month.

Federal authorities were surprised by the findings.

“This is the first I hear of this [plastic urea],” said Sofia Kassa, state minister for Agriculture.

She said several individuals had been charged with illegally possessing fertiliser outside the cooperatives, while the Ministry had received no reports of fake ones. Sofia disclosed ongoing efforts to control illegal fertiliser merchants, which will soon entail digital product tracking.

Illegal fertiliser trade has become a growing problem in the agriculture supply chain. Two weeks ago, nearly 250Qtl of illegal fertiliser was seized and hidden among piles of sugar. It was also indicated as a major concern when Usman Surur, head of the Central Ethiopia Agriculture Bureau, presented his report.

However, Tigray’s agriculture woes are multiplefold. Nearly 10 veterinary diseases exist amid a shortage of vaccines and medicine while several staff members have not been paid their salaries for 17 months. Meanwhile, the red-billed quelea, a bird that rapidly destroys crops, has reappeared after several decades. It has damaged around 114.5hct of land sown in improved seeds.

Despite these hurdles, Tigray plans to produce 24 million quintals this year. Eyasu remains optimistic as the regional state has begun implementing modern water collection in areas that receive rainfall.

“We’ll meet our targets,” he told Fortune, “with the help of God.”

The detrimental to soil health, cannot be overstated by experts. According to Akalu Teshome (PhD), an agricultural economist, the physical structure, chemical balance, and biological activity of soil will be compromised with plastic. He said it will ultimately reduce soil fertility and crop productivity.

“Neither water nor air can flow through the soil sufficiently,” he told Fortune.
Source፡Addis Fortune

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