More than 70 000 tonnes of top dressing fertiliser will be distributed to farmers in both the Command Agriculture and Pfumvudza inputs schemes by month end as transport bottlenecks have been cleared.
At the same time Zimbabwe’s fertiliser industry, with Government support, wants to accelerate plans to produce all top dressing fertilisers, as it now manages to meet demand for basal fertilisers.
Cyclones Chalane and Eloise, which both closed Beira for several days and caused other delays in Mozambique, coupled with the Covid-19 national lockdown causing general logistical delays around the world.
The fertiliser is in high demand this year with good rains pushing Zimbabwe towards a record harvest and thus far more fields and farms needing the nitrogen top dressing.
In an interview yesterday, Permanent Secretary for Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Dr John Basera said the current season saw a significant surge in the number of farmers who wanted fertiliser owing to favourable rains.
“There had been significant surges in terms of hectarage under different crops, “therefore fertiliser demand outpaced supply, hence the shortages”.
Covid-19 had negative effects on global logistics especially the supply of raw materials used in the manufacturing of fertiliser, both basal and top dressing,” said Dr Basera.
“Further, the two natural calamities cyclone Chalane and Eloise only worsened the situation at the port of Beira and other ports.
“However, Government is now in the process of ramping and expediting the importation and distribution of nitrogenous fertilisers for the two programmes, the Command Agriculture and the Presidential Input Scheme (Pfumvudza).
“Our target is to complete top dressing distribution amounting to over 70 000 tonnes for both programme by end of February 2021.”
The Agriculture Ministry was working with other line ministries, such as Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Finance and Economic Development and other agencies to expedite the imports.
Everyday, more than 1 500 tonnes of nitrogenous fertilisers are now being moved and distributed.
“Going forward, the short, medium and long term plan is to localise fertiliser manufacturing and thus import substitution. The number one and smartest export is not to import what you can produce locally. We would want to cut the fertiliser import bill significantly, whilst creating business and employment locally,” he said.
Dr Basera said Government was working with all stakeholders to roll out a five year fertiliser import substitution roadmap approved by Cabinet in June last year.
After the record harvests now expected from the summer rain-fed crops, attention is being given for the winter cereal season. Lake Kariba is filling up, so there should be adequate power generated, and the dams and lakes needed for irrigation were also filling.
“So we need to get the act right and plan ahead in terms of provision of the necessary input items on time, while crowding in the private sector,” he said.
Zimbabwe Fertiliser Manufacturing Association secretary Mr James Chigwende concurred with Dr Basera saying bottlenecks had been cleared around the importation of top dressing fertiliser.
Local production was able to satisfy all the required 300 000 tonnes of basal fertiliser each year, but the current infrastructure could only provide 90 000 tonnes of the 270 000 tonnes top dressing hence the need to import.
The industry was collaborating with Government to capacitate Sable Chemicals so that it produces 240 000 tonnes.
“Going forward the industry is ready to provide fertiliser. We are excited that the challenges that we have been experiencing has been attended to.
“We also thank the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for its continued support in the provision of foreign currency and we hope it continue to do so,” said Mr Chigwende.
He also implored Government to provide early indications of its requirements under the inputs schemes for all farmers, so that the industry could make preparations to have all fertiliser requirements in place on time.