Fertilizer in Ethiopia: An assessment of policies, value chain, and profitability

Type Working Paper
Title Fertilizer in Ethiopia: An assessment of policies, value chain, and profitability
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
URL https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2373214
Fertilizer use in Ethiopia has almost quintupled since the official elimination of input subsidy programs.
Yet, application rates remain far below recommended level and, given limited scope for area expansion,
fertilizer promotion continues to be the central focus for enhancing agricultural productivity. Unlike many
other developing countries, Ethiopia has moved from partial liberalization in 1990s to government
monopoly control over imports, with exclusive marketing through farmers’ organizations, since 2008. In
2010, the government embarked on a new policy initiative, the Growth and Transformation Program,
which sets annual production targets for cereals by regions. In line with the objectives of this program,
government increased fertilizer imports from 440 thousand tons in 2008 to about 890 thousand in 2012.
However, fertilizer availability (import plus change in stocks) far exceeded total consumption resulting in
large carryover stocks reaching almost half a million tons—worth roughly US$350 million—sitting in the
cooperative warehouses throughout the country in 2012. This is the context in which the Ethiopian
Agricultural Transformation Agency requested IFPRI to undertake a study analyzing policies, the value
chain constraints, profitability of fertilizer, and opportunities for further expansion of fertilizer use.
The study involved interviewing a large number of stakeholders in fertilizer value chain,
collection of data on costs and margins from the key actors in the value chain, as well as household
survey data. In this paper, we present the key findings from that study. In particular, the paper presents
estimates of detail costs and margins in the value chain, econometrically derived profitability and yield
responses, and the costs of government’s fertilizer promotion policies. Based the estimates of the costs
and margins in the fertilizer value chain, the study argues that the current value chain will not be
sustainable unless the scale of operation, as well institutional capacity, of the primary cooperatives goes
up. The estimates of profitability suggest that fertilizer use in major cereals is profitable, irrespective of
the method of calculation/estimation, implying that recent challenge with carryover stock reflects the
institutional and value chain constraints. With regards of program costs, this study finds that while there
is no official subsidy program, fertilizer promotion has involved large fiscal costs—estimated at US$40
million per year since 2008. Finally, for further expansion of fertilizer use, the study makes two
recommendations: (a) allowing private sector to participate in the domestic markets alongside
cooperatives; and (b) paying more attention to other cereals—such as barley and sorghum—where
fertilizer use is close to zero.

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