Fertilizer Quality Assessments in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Liberia

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The fertilizer quality assessments (FQAs) in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Liberia were conducted between 2015 and 2017 as part of the activities of the USAID funded West Africa Fertilizer Program (WAFP), implemented by IFDC. FQAs in these three ECOWAS Member States were conducted to develop a fertilizer quality diagnostic that would provide the countries and the ECOWAS Commission with the information needed to develop policies and regulations associated with the domestication and harmonization of the regulatory systems in the countries assessed. The ECOWAS legal and regulatory framework for fertilizer trade and quality control was developed by the IFDC MIR Plus project and WAFP during 2010-2016. The MIR Plus project was able to get Regulation C/REG.13/12/12, which related to fertilizer quality control in the ECOWAS region, adopted by the Community Council of Ministers in December 2012. At the end of the MIR Plus project in December 2013, WAFP took over and ensured the review and adoption of four implementing regulations in 2016 to support Regulation C/REG.13/12/12. At the request of the ECOWAS Commission to IFDC in 2013, WAFP worked to facilitate implementation of this harmonized regional legal and regulatory framework at the national level. The main purpose of this report is to identify and discuss the fertilizer quality problems found in the fertilizer markets of these countries in order to assist regulatory authorities in the development of policies that could remediate the problems. In this three-country study, the IFDC fertilizer quality assessment team used a random approach to select fertilizer dealers and collect fertilizer samples for analysis. Data were also collected on fertilizer markets, dealers, products, and storage conditions. The main fertilizer quality problem found in Benin and Burkina Faso was the low quality of bulk blends. The problem is generalized to all blends commercialized in these two countries and is particularly pronounced in terms of frequency and severity of shortages regarding P2O5, K2O, secondary nutrients, and micronutrients. Segregation of the bulk blends may explain some of the nutrient shortages, but the main origin of the problem likely is insufficient nutrient inputs at the time of blending. Solving the quality problems of bulk-blended fertilizers in West Africa is urgent considering that bulk blends will be the dominant way to deliver the balanced fertilizer formulations needed for increased crop productivity. This objective can be achieved through the reinforcement of components in the ECOWAS regulatory framework that relate to the manufacture and trade of bulk blends. Some of the imported NPK compounds traded in the three countries surveyed are of good quality. These include NPK 15-15-15 traded in Benin and Burkina Faso and NPK 23-10-5+3S+2MgO+0.3Zn, which is highly commercialized in Burkina Faso. Some of the imported NPK compounds are of low quality, such as NPK 14-23-14+5S+1B in Benin and NPK 15-15-15+6S+1B in Burkina Faso. No fillers or foreign substances that suggest adulteration by dilution of nutrients were found, not even in re bagged fertilizers. The only plausible explanation remaining for the nutrients being out of compliance in these imported products is that the nutrient deficiencies originated during the manufacture. Therefore, effective inspection of imported products in ports is necessary. Cadmium (Cd) content in phosphate fertilizers from Benin, Burkina Faso, and Liberia, expressed as milligrams (mg) of Cd per kilogram (kg) of P2O5, falls under the safety limits established by European and U.S. regulations. Thirty-one percent of the bags weighed in Benin and 23% of the bags weighed in Burkina Faso were underweight by at least 0.5 kg. There were no underweight bags among the 31 bags weighed in Liberia. External factors not directly associated with the characteristics of fertilizer products, such as rural markets, isolated dealers, periodic markets, and lack of dealers’ knowledge about fertilizers, have been found to have a significant association with nutrient content out of compliance. Fertilizer caking has a significant association with management factors; this indicates that chances of fertilizer caking increase when storage conditions do not reduce relative humidity, when bag stacks have 20 or more bags, and when pallets are not used. Similarly, chances of adequate fertilizer moisture content increase when fertilizer bags are impermeable, either through a double layer (a plastic inner and a woven outer layer) or by using plastic laminated bags. Laboratories in West Africa have demonstrated low accuracy and precision of their analytical outputs; therefore, training personnel and updating equipment are urgent actions needed to ensure the implementation of the ECOWAS fertilizer quality framework is effective.