Drought hits fertiliser firms

Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
The fertiliser industry is stuck with stocks worth millions of dollars due to the drought which has resulted in the low uptake of the commodity by farmers.

The industry, which has since suspended ammonium nitrate production, has more than 100 000 tonnes of fertiliser in stock while the bulk of the 380 000 tonnes that farmers bought last season have not been applied due to drought.

Fertiliser industry spokesman and Chemplex chief executive Mr Misheck Kachere said the season had been slow and bad. “We have not moved large stocks of fertiliser and obviously we incur costs,” he said. “The industry has fertiliser worth over $50 million in stock. Of this, 60 000 tonnes are ammonium nitrate and 40 000 tonnes are compounds which have not been sold.

“We have registered a decline of 20 percent in sales from last year and we are pinning hopes on the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry is expecting a decline in production and this will also affect fertiliser sales.”

Mr Kachere said the country could not export fertiliser to neighbouring countries as they were stuck with the commodity.

“South Africa has around 800 000 tonnes of fertiliser in stock,” he said. “We cannot export to Malawi or Zambia because they also have huge quantities. The industry has commitments to pay suppliers and we are now in the process of negotiating with them. Our suppliers understand the situation because the drought has not only affected Zimbabwe but the region as a whole.

“The quality of the fertiliser will not be compromised if handled properly. Fertiliser can be kept for at least two years and the period can go up to three years as long as it is stored properly.”

The fertiliser industry last year reduced prices of the commodity from between $32 and $35 per 50 kilogramme bag to $ 27,50.

This was expected to increase uptake of the product but sales remained low.

Although farmers are facing liquidity challenges, the industry has attributed low sales to El Nino-induced drought.

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