BY FREEMAN MAKOPA
Chemplex Corporation Limited chief executive officer, Tapuwa Mashingaidze said the local industry had the capacity to produce fertiliser locally, but required foreign currency to import essential raw materials for the manufacture of the stimulant.
“For 600 000 tonnes of fertiliser demand this year, $120 million in forex will be needed. All compounds and blends will be produced locally, while Sable can produce 100 000 tonnes ammonium nitrate, given the forex, which is about 40% of the fertiliser, is needed. There is huge capacity to manufacture fertiliser locally. What we are saying is that instead of importing finished fertilisers, we buy raw materials to manufacture locally,” he said.
Mashingaidze said the fertiliser sector was currently operating below 30% capacity and the foreign currency remained the biggest challenge in increasing it further.
“If we get 100% support in terms of foreign currency, we can perform at full capacity as an industry. As we fast approach the 2018/19 season, we are expecting to get more foreign currency from new players,” he said.
“We are working in the new dispensation era, so it is our hope that there is going to be a change.”
In addition to the local industry’s existing capacity to manufacture fertilisers, which is half a million tonnes, various companies have been investing in blending to compensate for the shortfall.
To that effect, supplementary ammonium nitrates and urea imports will be required to cover the shortfalls in the country.
The local fertiliser industry is advocating for zero imports of finished compound fertilisers and raw materials used for production of fertiliser.
The country has three major manufacturing firms — Sable Chemicals, Windmill and Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company.
In the February 2018 Famine Early Warning Systems Network’s (FEWS NET) Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook report, shortages of crop inputs mainly fertilisers and chemicals, were expected to continue due to foreign currency shortages.
“For areas where crops survived the dry spell, some poor households will face challenges accessing inputs on the markets given low household incomes and high costs.
Farmers in some areas are still to receive crop input assistance, especially top-dressing fertiliser. Some crops are expected to experience heavy leaching and nitrogen deficiency due to widespread rains. These factors are likely to result in below-average yields this season,” FEWS NET said.
In response, the government has been importing fertilisers, increasing foreign currency allocations and relaxing import restrictions to allow holders of free funds to import fertilisers.
Harvesting of the early-planted maize crop has started in some areas.
Experts say that maize production prospects for the 2017-18 cropping season remain below average mainly as a result of abnormal dryness in December and January.