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Fertilizer Use and Maize Production in Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Heisey, Paul W.
  • Mwangi, Wilfred


In sub-Saharan Africa, greater use of mineral fertilizers is crucial to increasing food production and slowing the rate of environmental degradation. Regional growth rates in fertilizer consumption have never been particularly high, in part because the real price of fertilizer is higher in Africa than in many other developing regions. As subsidies have been removed and exchange-rate distortions corrected over the past decade or more, relative prices paid by farmers have risen to reflect more closely the economic cost of fertilizer. Consumption growth has thus slowed even more. Nonetheless, during the period of declining growth in consumption, fertilizer use on cereals, particularly maize, has become relatively more important than use on cash crops. Strategies for increasing fertilizer use should thus direct more attention to maize and other important staples. In higher potential areas, some fertilizer use on maize is often economically profitable even at higher relative prices of fertilizer. Additional research on the limiting nutrient under farmers' conditions or on the interactions between nutrients and other crop-management factors could help to increase profitability. Policy analysis for Africas fertilizer sector has tended to focus on subsidies and to neglect other important issues, such as solving credit problems at many points in the marketing channel, supporting appropriate agricultural research, and developing and maintaining infrastructure. Agricultural sector strategies that give sufficient attention to these issues must be developed. Although subsidy removal must be one ultimate policy objective, we recommend gradual withdrawal in countries where fertilizer consumption levels are relatively high. Because many African governments require time and stability to develop policy capacity, detailed institutional analyses can help design second-best solutions to problems of fertilizer policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Heisey, Paul W. & Mwangi, Wilfred, 1996. "Fertilizer Use and Maize Production in Sub-Saharan Africa," Economics Working Papers 7688, CIMMYT: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:cimmew:7688

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Jean-Marc Fontaine & Alice Sindzingre, 1991. "Macro-Micro Linkages: Structural Adjustment and Fertilizer Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa," OECD Development Centre Working Papers 49, OECD Publishing.
    2. Parish, Ross M. & McLaren, Keith Robert, 1982. "Relative Cost-Effectiveness Of Input And Output Subsidies," Australian Journal of Agricultural Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 26(01), April.
    3. von Braun, Joachim & Puetz, Detlev, 1987. "An African fertilizer crisis : Origin and economic effects in the Gambia," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 337-348, November.
    4. Ghura, Dhaneshwar & Grennes, Thomas J., 1991. "The Impact of Real Exchange Rate Misalignment and Instability on Macroeconomic Performance in Sub-Saharan Africa," Working Papers 51146, International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium.
    5. Shepherd, Andrew, 1989. "Approaches to the privatization of fertilizer marketing in Africa," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 143-154, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Genti Kostandini & Roberto La Rovere & Zhe Guo, 2016. "Ex Ante Welfare Analysis of Technological Change: The Case of Nitrogen Efficient Maize for African Soils," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 64(1), pages 147-168, March.
    2. Smale, Melinda & Jayne, T.S., 2003. "Maize in Eastern and Southern Africa: 'seeds' of success in retrospect," EPTD discussion papers 97, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    3. R.I. Voortman & B G I S Sonneveld & M A Keyzer, 2000. "African Land Ecology: Opportunities and Constraints for Agricultural Development," CID Working Papers 37A, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    4. Esilaba, A.O. & Byalebeka, J.B. & Delve, R.J. & Okalebo, J.R. & Ssenyange, D. & Mbalule, M. & Ssali, H., 2005. "On farm testing of integrated nutrient management strategies in eastern Uganda," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 144-165, November.
    5. Nkonya, Ephraim & Kaizzi, Crammer & Pender, John, 2005. "Determinants of nutrient balances in a maize farming system in eastern Uganda," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 155-182, August.
    6. Omamo, S. W. & Williams, J. C. & Obare, G. A. & Ndiwa, N. N., 2002. "Soil fertility management on small farms in Africa: evidence from Nakuru District, Kenya," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 159-170, April.

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