Forex shortages cripples fertiliser supplies

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Fertiliser supply remains constrained

Herbert Zharare
Fertiliser supply remains constrained with the sector struggling to satisfy state-sponsored programmes for 2017/18 farming season.

Most fertiliser companies were contracted to supply the commodity for the state sponsored programmes — Command Agriculture and Presidential Inputs Support Schemes – but indications are that supplies remain subdued.

Last season the sector supplied over 400 000 tonnes of both compounds and ammonium nitrate fertilisers, but this season it admitted there were challenges in even meeting the demand by those not covered by the two state facilities.

There are some compound fertilizer brands such as Compound C, critical for tobacco, potatoes and other key crops for the export market that remain in short supply, with some players in the fertiliser industry saying they have not benefited from the $600 million Afreximbank nostro stabilisation facility.

The situation was exacerbated by the international fertiliser prices that went up during the last quarter and the effects also filtered to local production systems.

Speaking to Business Weekly on Wednesday, the industry spokesperson Tapiwa Mashingaidze, admitted there were challenges in mobilising foreign currency for critical imports, adding only some firms with foreign links have products visible on the market.

“We still hope that if we continue receiving more foreign currency from the central bank, we will supply the commodity for this season. Foreign currency is being supplied for the two state sponsored programme, but we are still struggling to close the gap and cover those outside these programmes. I cannot say we have covered the two state programmes 100 percent, but there is a lot of effort to fulfil the pledge,” he said.

However, there has been concern that some products of traditional fertiliser companies in Zimbabwe, Windmill and Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company are in short supply, a situation Mashingaidze said is a result of a combination of factors.

“There are products like the one from Superfert and Omnia that are visible on the market. Superfert got more foreign currency to supply state sponsored schemes and that is the reason why their products are more on the market. Omnia at times uses its links with its parent company in South Africa. I am sure they have ways to expatriate the money to South Africa. They are using these facilities to their advantage,” he said.

It emerged the two companies’ products on the market were going for over $40 per 50 kg bag, prices farmers say was already chewing on their profits. Last year farmers got fertilisers for between $28 and $35 per 50 kg bag.

Mashingaidze, however, said the whole sector is pinning hope on support from the new Government and renewed interest on people who wanted to invest in the country following the announcement of the new economic order.

“I am happy prices of fertilisers have stabilised by now and we are not expecting some increases. With the new system, we hope future foreign currency supplies will be much better and we are looking forward to new investment and restoration of traditional value chains. It is our hope that foreign currency will be readily available,” he said.

The season is almost half way and some farmers are still planting and yet to get fertilisers.

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