This study marks the starting point for implementing an agricultural input observatory in Cameroon that should ultimately contribute to improving both knowledge of agricultural input markets and implementing input subsidy reforms by the State.
In the immediate future, this reform is being implemented in the cocoa and coffee sectors, through the creation of the Cocoa and Coffee Sub-Sector Development Fund (FODECC) of a one-stop shop for access to inputs based on the principle of vouchers granted to producers through local distribution networks. The financial support of the subsidised part of the State depends on the needs proclaimed by the producers in terms of quantity and therefore, of course, on the availability and selling price of the products at distributors.
This led FODECC to conclude an agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER) to start implementing the observatory of agricultural inputs in cocoa and coffee production regions. In the absence of retrospective data, this first study was commissioned by the Directorate of Agricultural Surveys and Statistics (DESA) in early 2021 in order to be able to assess recent changes in input trade. It is therefore a fully declarative survey conducted among authorised distributors of fertilizers and plant protection products recorded in registers of the Directorate of Regulation and Quality Control (DRCQ) of MINADER. The investigation being limited to authorised distributors only probably constitutes a bias as regards the volumes presently marketed. This partly reduces the bias of quality effects on distribution prices. In addition, the subsidy mechanism goes through this distribution network, which will be the target in terms of price monitoring and supply.
Another limit to this study concerns the approach of volumes owned by importer-distributors. Indeed, out of the fifteen companies registered and contacted, four agreed to provide answers to the questionnaires. Consequently, assessing the total available was carried out through the exploitation of custom data at the port of Douala. The estimate of domestic availability is therefore made solely from the import/export balance and does not take into account any year-end stocks owned by importers/distributors.
Characteristics of Fertilizers and Plant Protection Products Distribution Network
Geographical access to the distribution network is very heterogeneous since 8 out of 10 distributors are located in two regions (Littoral and West). For retail, distribution is about the same, with 7 out of 10 distributors located in these two regions and almost half in the West Region alone. As expected, retail trade is mainly carried out by sole proprietorships (8 out of 10) and less likely by cooperatives or limited liability companies.
While the majority of distributors claim to have a good knowledge of the legislation in force, they are slightly less numerous as regards information on product approval. However, caution should be observed in interpreting dichotomous questions, and this level of information is likely to be lower if the questions focused on the specific elements of the regulations.
Regardless of their quality, distributors, whether retailers or wholesalers, cite high prices for products and transport as the main limit of the activity. Supply difficulties, mostly in delivery delays, are mentioned by one in two distributors. On the other hand, product quality defects are not particularly cited. Regarding retailers, more than half cite weak demand as a constraint to developing the activity; This therefore advocates for the support initiated by the subsidy system and the monitoring of this qualitative parameter among retailers.
Fertilizer Market
The supply of fertilizers to the national market is around 200,000 tons in 2020. In 2021, there was a slight decrease of 4,000 tons, mainly due to lower imports of complex fertilizers (Di-ammonium phosphate and NPK). Given required deadlines between orders and deliveries, tensions that appeared
during the last quarter of 2021 on the fertilizer market did not impact annual availability and stocks on retailers at the end of 2021. They remained identical to those of previous years.
While domestic availability is stable, trade availability expressed through volumes acquired mainly at the retail level fell sharply between 2019 and 2021 with a decrease of 10,000 tons of urea and 5,000 tons of complex fertilizers. Supply at producer level is lower, although it is not clear whether this is an adjustment by distributors to decreasing demand or a lack of supply due to rising prices. However, sales analysis also indicates a decrease in demand, for the Littoral Region alone, sales of urea decreased by 44% and those of complex fertilizers by 34%. While demand in other regions is more stable, sales volumes are significantly lower.
Regarding prices, they are constantly increasing at the retail level, especially between 2020 and 2021; period during which the price of nitrogen fertilizers increased by 140 CFA francs/kg and 100 CFA francs/kg respectively in the Littoral and South regions. For complex fertilizers and outside the south region, they have increased everywhere by about 50 CFA francs/Kg. Even if we must be cautious about increase absolute values with this type of retrospective survey, increase in prices from 2021 is clear and should continue into 2022 at the international level.
Market for Plant Protection Products
While the distribution network for plant protection products is relatively identical to that of fertilizers, the market is characterised by apparent weaker demand as shown by sales. However, it is necessary to qualify because, unlike fertilizers, sales of plant protection products are conditioned by the specificities of each season and the cyclical threats to crops.
Acquisitions by retail distributors decreased slightly between 2020 and 2021 for insecticides (-20%) and herbicides (-17%). This decrease is greater for fungicides, which have fallen by 40%, mainly in the Littoral Region, where they are mainly marketed. The situation is somewhat different for wholesalers/retailers who acquired more herbicides in 2021 than in 2020 (+80%) mainly in the West Region.
Sales at the retail level are low as compared to acquisitions and down significantly between 2020 and 2021 especially for herbicides and fungicides whose sales have halved over the last two years. Thus, at the end of 2021, there would be significant apparent stocks among retailers (5,000 liters of insecticides and 14,000 liters of herbicides).
On the other hand, at the wholesaler/retail level, sales of insecticides and fungicides are stable and have even increased for herbicides (mainly also in the West Region). It therefore implies that wholesalers/retailers are most likely to anticipate demand and adapt their procurement.
Overall, the price of insecticide is trending upwards up to +9% between 2020 and 2021 in the Littoral Region. Exceptionally in the West Region, it is falling by 1.4%. Regarding herbicides, the increase is much more marked (85%) in the Centre Region and 40% in the West Region. On the other hand, the price of fungicides is more stable except in the Littoral Region where it climbs by 30% between 2020 and 2021.
As a result of the limits mentioned, this survey constitutes an exploratory study and can be assimilated to a pilot phase. From the results obtained, the need to set up an observatory of agricultural inputs at MINADER emerges. To this end, DESA will, with activities planned for 2022, strengthen the list of indicators and set up a robust statistical system of the observatory allowing FODECC to effectively monitor in its momentum to revitalise the cocoa and coffee sectors in Cameroon.
Also, MINADER should through the DRCQ focus on the quality control of fertilizers and plant protection products made available to stakeholders.
Due to lack of information registered as a constrain by actors, it would be necessary to set up a platform for exchange and communication between actors of the cocoa and coffee sectors.