21 May 2012

Zimbabwe: Impasse Over Fertiliser Resolved

THE impasse between Government and fertiliser companies finally ended last Friday, with the latter agreeing to start moving fertilisers for winter wheat to designated Grain Marketing Board depots.

The firms had initially insisted they would not deliver until payments for last year's deliveries were made. Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made revealed, after meeting representatives of the fertiliser industry, that they had agreed to co-operate and fertilisers would start moving without delay.

"Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company are moving 2 500 tonnes of Compound D and 2 000 tonnes of Ammonium Nitrate while Windmill will move 4 000 tonnes of Compound D and 1 000 tonnes of AN while the other company, Nyiombo Investments Zimbabwe are delivering 6 000 tonnes of Compound D.

"Movement of the fertilisers has already started as we are speaking. The planting season has just passed and we need not waste anymore time," he said.

Minister Made said farmers who need the fertilisers would get vouchers from CBZ Bank before proceeding to the Grain Marketing Board to redeem them for inputs.

Other banks, he said, refused to be involved in the programme because farmers owed them money from unpaid loans from last season and beyond.

Minister Made challenged GMB to be fair in their distribution of the fertilisers and avoid situations where individual farmers get the bulk of supplies leaving the majority stranded.

"GMB general manager Mr Albert Mandizha must always check his depot managers or even conduct spot checks to ascertain if his officers are acting professionally for the benefit of all farmers," he advised.

Windmill Private Limited chief executive Mr George Rundogo said his company was willing to work with the Government, adding that deliveries to GMB depots would commence yesterday.

In an interview, Mr Rundogo said his company was facing serious funding challenges and very low demand for the product, making operations unviable.

"We imported 18 000 tonnes of fertiliser that spent nine months at Beira port after we failed to raise money to transport it to our plant.

"To date we have managed to bring home 12 000 tonnes and another 6 000 tonnes are still there. When we appear reluctant to supply fertilisers on credit it is because we are desperately looking for cash to fund our operations," he explained.

Nyiombo Investments Zimbabwe country manager Mr Mackford Machona confirmed his company's willingness to do business with Government and to signed a contract to that effect. Government had targeted planting 26 280 ha of wheat with an estimated output of 75 000 tonnes.

Zimbabwe needs between 400 000 and 450 000 tonnes of wheat annually.

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