Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Severe fertilizer shortages loom

Severe fertilizer shortages loom

A severe shortage of fertilizer is looming, amid revelations that producers 
have been incapacitated by financial constraints owing to failure by 
government and other creditors to settle their bills.

by Owen Muchena

Producers, including Chemplex, Windmill and Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company, are 
owed a collective $40m by customers who borrowed fertilizer in previous 
farming seasons, but have failed to honour their obligation to service their 

Misheck Kachere, the chief executive of Chemplex Corporation and 
spokesperson for the industry, told The Zimbabwean in an interview that the 
company had hardly any money to start producing for the 2012-13 season.

Government, under its various state-sponsored inputs schemes, is one of the 
major creditors. It also owes seed houses huge amounts of money.

“Some customers have not paid for fertilizer supplied last season. We are 
still owed in the region of $40m. If defaulting customers do not pay up, we 
will be severely crippled in our endeavors to meet this season’s demand,” 
said Kachere. Preparations for the next farming season are already underway, 
with rains expected to start in a matter of weeks. Climate change, however, 
seems to have generally pushed the onset of the rains later in the year.

Kachere said production of Ammonium Nitrate, the top dressing fertilizer, 
was particularly endangered. “Even if we were to get the money today, Sable 
Chemicals, the sole producer of AN, cannot produce 150,000 tonnes required 
for the summer season. We are currently producing about 10,000 tonnes per 
month due to a number of operational challenges,” he said.

“We only have about 25,000 tonnes of AN in stock, so we just pray that if we 
get the money now, we can start importing from overseas to close the gap,” 
he added. Demand for compounds might be met as there was still capacity to 
produce 30,000 tonnes per month, depending on the availability of money to 
meet operational costs. The country needs an average of 300,000 tonnes of 
both compounds and AN for the summer farming season.

Tendai Biti, the Finance Minister, said government was making plans to avail 
money to settle its debt to the industry. He said government was working to 
mobilise $150m for the agricultural sector, $60m of which would go towards 
paying the fertilizer companies.

It is not clear how the money is going to be raised.

The looming shortage is expected to push input prices up and further cripple 
farmers, many of whom have still not been paid for crops delivered to the 
Grain Marketing Board.

Economist Eric Bloch said government had no choice but to borrow from inputs 
producers because it did not have ready cash, but in doing so had 
jeopardized the agricultural industry. “If government does not borrow, there 
would be more starvation, but through that borrowing, we are being pushed 
further into the emergency mode,” added Bloch. 


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