Martin Kadzere Senior Reporter
THE Government is working on a five-year road map aimed at significantly reducing fertiliser imports over the next five years through capacitating local manufacturers, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza has said.
The country, whose economy is largely agro-based has been importing significant quantities of fertiliser for many years as local companies struggled to meet demand largely due to foreign currency shortages.
While Zimbabwe spent nearly US$662 million on fertiliser imports in the past seven years, with the Government, which supports farmers though state assisted farming programmes, being the largest procurer, local companies have not benefited much.
Had the local industry been adequately supported, the country would have spent US$400 million, which is less US$262 million, according to the Five Year Fertiliser Import Substitution Roadmap document.
Observers say Government investment, through Command Agriculture and Presidential Inputs Schemes, will continue naturally to benefit the local agriculture value chains, together with local companies instead of foreign firms.
Zimbabwe’s demand for fertiliser in a normal farming season stands around 600 000 tonnes, of which 70 percent goes towards Government farming programmes.
“I am working on a domestication of local production strategy in fertiliser and other products including pharmaceuticals, cotton, leather, sugar and tobacco,” Dr Nzenza told our sister publication Business Weekly.
“In fertiliser, we have developed a five-year road map, which will see a massive reduction in fertiliser imports.”
“Key in this strategy is the development of a robust value chain and beneficiation programme.
“Thus applying new technologies to create employment , growth, production, productivity and profitability. Our fertiliser products will target the export market and become competitive when within the region.”
Dr Nzenza said Zimbabwe will leverage on the Africa Continental Free Trade area to tap into export markets on the continent.
Chemplex and Sable Chemicals, the country’s major producers of fertiliser have already come up with strategies to reduce imports in the next five years.
According to the roadmap, Sable Chemicals will ramp up annual production to 240 000 tonnes in the next five years from the current installed capacity of 90 000 tonnes. Presently, the company is operating at 33 percent of its capacity largely due to foreign currency shortages.
Chemplex will increase production to 100 000 tonnes over the same period, from the current capacity of 80 000 tonnes. It is presently utilising 75 percent of its capacity.
Analysts said a robust programme was needed to ensure that the country becomes self reliant in terms of fertiliser requirements.
“It defies logic that we are an agro-based economy yet we import critical inputs even though we have reasonable capacity,” said an analyst with a local financial institution.
“It is a tragedy that the backbone of our economy is being supported by foreign firms when you actually have companies that can equally do the same.”
There are 12 fertiliser companies in Zimbabwe with the newer ones being involved in making blended NPK compounds.
Out of these, three companies are involved in the primary production of raw materials. These are Dorowa Minerals which mines phosphate rock in Buhera, which is in turn converted to fertiliser grade phosphates by ZimPhos in Harare.
Sable Chemical in Kwekwe produces AN from imported ammonia following decommissioning of its electrolysis plant three years ago.
At the secondary level, three companies have granulation capacity and these are Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company, Windmill and FSG. Windmill operate blending plants.
FSG, Omnia, ETG and several other companies operate blending plants whereby granulated materials are physically mixed to make various grades of NPK compounds. The degree of value addition is obviously higher for primary producers.