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Improve fertiliser usage to boost yields, supplier tells farmers

Published:Saturday | March 26, 2022 | 12:05 AMDavid Salmon/Gleaner Writer

As the cost of agricultural inputs skyrocket due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, one major player is recommending that increasing efficiency in fertiliser usage can lead to major savings for farmers.

Dennis Valdez, managing director of Newport Fersan Jamaica Limited, made the suggestion during a recent Gleaner interview. “There are many ways of reducing the impact that this situation is going to create on the farming community. You see our programme, which is what we call a ‘precise nutrient management system’, basically gives you a nutrition programme based on your soil analysis,” Valdez explained.

This has been implemented across the island as Valdez revealed that in some instances, farmers are overfertilising their crops, which means resources are spent unnecessarily. Thus, he is encouraging the nearly 220,000 farmers in Jamaica to utilise his company’s services.

“In this time you don’t want to spend more than what you need. We have had a lot of cases where farmers can realise substantial savings in terms of the cost, and at the same time, an increase in the yield when they use the nutrition programme designed by Newport Fersan Jamaica Limited rather than using the traditional nutrition programme,” he added.

The cost for a soil test conducted by the company is US$50. He also shared that farmers who embrace the recommended nutrition plan will see this cost reimbursed through products or credit.

“I don’t want people to buy more than what they need. I want them to buy what they need to buy so that they can expand their operations and in the end, obviously they would buy more. But buying what you don’t need is a waste of money,” said Valdez.


These efforts are likely to yield some reprieve for farmers who continue to feel the pinch in their pockets due to the volatility of prices for agricultural inputs. Newport Fersan Jamaica controls 85 per cent of the fertiliser market and is the sole manufacturer of the input locally.

Russia is the second-largest producer of ammonia, urea and potassium, which are all raw materials in the manufacturing of fertiliser. The country accounts for 23 per cent of the export market of ammonia, 14 per cent of urea and 21 per cent of potassium. However, due to international sanctions, access to these resources may prove difficult.

These raw materials are not produced locally and it is for this reason why the company executive explained that it is not possible nor economically viable to manufacture local fertiliser or pesticide alternatives.

Valdez shared that based on a weekly fertiliser report, new price records for raw material have been set. For example, nitrogen went up by US$340 per ton in south-east Asia and by US$240 per ton in the Middle East. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, prices were in the region of US$400 per ton, but now prices are fluctuating between US$900 and US$1,000 per ton.

Even though Newport Fersan Jamaica Limited receives one container shipment from Russia, Valdez elaborated that the absence of Russia from the market will put pressure on the company’s traditional suppliers in Canada, the United States and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Not having Russia in the market will increase the stress that we are seeing coming from COVID. It will put more pressure on the market … you will have to share a smaller cake from fewer sources and that will impact prices globally.”

A review is currently under way to determine whether prices need to be adjusted.

“The company is assessing the situation very closely to see what is the next movement in terms of our prices, but right now, we have not made a decision,” Valdez said.