24 May 2007

Zimbabwe: Sable Chemicals Seeks US$40m for Refurbishment

Harare — Sable Chemicals needs US$40 million for major refurbishment of its electrolysis plant over the next three years to guarantee the continued manufacture of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, the company's general manager Mr John Mhunduru said in Harare on Tuesday.

He told a meeting attended by the Minister of State for Agricultural Engineering and Mechanisation, Dr Joseph Made, that the company was facing serious problems with its fertilizer manufacturing plant. This has generated fears that the plant could be completely down by this time next year bringing fertilizer production to a stop.

Mr Mhunduru said projections were that there would be no ammonium nitrate next year if the plant was not refurbished.

"The company will need at least US$8,5 million per year or US$700 000 per month to manufacture the fertilizer.

"The plant is the lifeblood of ammonium nitrate manufacturing hence the need to urgently replace the ageing equipment," he said.

In response to the urgent needs of the company, Dr Made said the agricultural industry was already facing a big challenge hence the need to prioritise the need to reconstruct the plant with immediate effect.

"It's a big challenge. We cannot import ammonium nitrate in large quantities because we want to serve both the seed farmers and the commercial crop producers," he said.

Dr Made asked the fertilizer companies to prepare a strategic proposal document that they could take to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe so that they plead the case as matter of urgency.

"All the efforts we are putting to modernise the agricultural industry will come to nought if the fertilizer industry collapses, we will be working in a futility."

Sable Chemicals has a maximum production capacity of 240 000 tonnes of AN per year but it is producing below capacity with the country having to import the top dressing fertilizer.

Its efforts to increase production have been foiled by pricing and the unavailability of foreign currency.

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