N2Africa goes global in search for high quality inoculants

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The N2Africa project sent out invitation to global inoculant manufacturers to tender for the supply of soyabean inoculants for the project’s research and development activities in 2011 and to consider establishing partnerships with local agro-dealers in all 8 N2Africa countries. This was done to ensure, that the project provides smallholder farmers with the best quality inoculants available.

Winning bids were selected based on offer of high quality products at the most cost-effective rates. The minimal conditions set for the bids were that the product to be supplied must:

  1. Have 109 cells/g of viable rhizobia strain USDA110 in a peat carrier when landed at port by the stated date.
  2. Contain less than 106 contaminant organisms per gram inoculant.
  3. Carry labels on package bearing the above information in English as well as identify it as inoculant for soyabean, the manufacturer’s details, storage and transport conditions, composition of the carrier, expiry date, and recommended dose (for 1 kg).

Suppliers were also expected to guarantee that in the event that the products failed to meet the quality specifications, in an independent quality assurance (QA) process, the company was to replace the quantity affected at no cost to N2Africa or to the farmers.

Twelve companies were invited to bid and five responded. All the five companies met the minimum requirements specified and so selection came down to which company was able to supply the inoculants at the lowest cost/benefit ratio. At the end of the exercise, ResBioAgro, a company based in Spain, was selected for supplies to Rwanda and DRC, while Biagrosa from Argentina was invited to supply Malawi and Mozambique. Due to import restrictions, it was decided that supplies for Zimbabwe and Kenya should be sourced locally from SPRL Marondera and MEA Fertiliser Ltd. Nakuru, respectively. Supplies to Ghana and Nigeria were not included in the tender process because there was an insufficient time to go through the process before the start of the cropping season in West Africa. Rather, Legume Technology Ltd in the UK was contracted to supply both countries based on previous year’s experience of which their products produced outstanding results in the two countries.
Supplies from Legume Technology and ResBioAgro have since been received by the respective countries of destination while the procurement process for supplies by BioAgrosa is underway. It is hoped that these business partnerships with foreign manufacturers will go beyond one-off transactions and will rather be the seed for a long-lasting relationship. Our long-term vision is to have manufactu-rers producing high quality inoculants in those countries, or that different companies are importing and selling inoculants. To facilitate this, N2Africa will assist companies with contacts in the various countries for information on import permits and product registration.

Abdullahi Bala and Ken Dashiell