ZimPhos says to boost basal fertiliser output Mr Nyakudziwanza

Michael Tome 

Business Reporter

Zimbabwe Phosphate Industries (ZimPhos), a division of Chemplex Corporation Limited, intends to invest US$2,2 million towards the establishment of a granulation plant in the first quarter of 2024 to ramp up basal fertiliser production.

The plant will be in addition to the US$1,1 million fertiliser blending plant the company has already built at ZimPhos and was commissioned by President Mnangagwa in September last year.

The investments are meant to improve the availability of basal fertilisers in support of the Government’s agriculture programmes.

It is expected the two plants will have the capacity to produce and meet about 50 percent of the required national basal fertiliser demand of 400 000 tonnes per annum, which would save the country significant foreign currency by reducing imports.

The intended fertiliser granulation plant is used for mixing and blending various raw materials to create a uniform mixture. This ensures that each granule contains the necessary nutrients in the correct proportions.

The granulation process involves mixing fertiliser ingredients into granules of a desired size and shape, which improves the handling and application properties of the fertiliser.

Phosphate concentrate produced in Dorowa is presently being converted into single super phosphate (SSP) at ZimPhos and then sold to other producers since the company does not have the capacity to convert SSP to granular compound fertilisers.

The planned granulation plant will have the capacity to produce 120 000 tonnes of fertiliser per annum, which will be a plus to the company’s value-addition drive.

On the other hand, the commissioning of the fertiliser blending plant last year was a major milestone and boost to ZimPhos’s evolution and drive to produce compound fertilisers.

The establishment of the granulation and blending plants is inspired by the country’s quest to value-add more local natural produce, in this case the abundant phosphate.

However, ZimPhos blending plant, which has a nameplate capacity of 200 000 tonnes per annum has been operating below capacity due to working capital constraints.

According to ZimPhos, the blending operations require at least US$15 million to produce 25 000 tonnes of D blend.

ZimPhos is a key link in the Zimbabwe fertiliser value chain and portable water treatment solutions.

In terms of SSP, Zimphos said it intended to produce between 20 000 and 28 000 tonnes this year, which translates to about 62 000 tonnes of compound D fertiliser after processing.

In an interview during a tour, ZimPhos general manager Mr Philip Nyakudziwanza said the long-term drive is to ensure that we satisfy local basal fertiliser requirements by 2025.

“We are in the process of putting together a granulation plant of our own, we intend to launch the granulation plant in the first quarter of 2024, however, there is scope to accelerate the process and cut down on that time. 

“Until we have our own granulation plant where we convert locally produced super phosphates into granular form or into NPK compounds.

“We have always been in this business as a manufacturer of super phosphates, but since last year we have changed our trajectory to value addition and we have started producing our own fertiliser from the blending plant and next is the granulation plant.

“For the whole of this year we anticipate producing 20 000 and 28 000 tonnes of super phosphates, which translate to 62 000 tonnes of NPK compounds, which is a far cry for the national demand of 400 000 tonnes per annum but we will slowly grow this contribution as we go into next year,” said Mr Nyakudziwanza.

The new plants are a testimony to the clarion call for accelerating innovation, research, and development under the leadership of the Second Republic‘s Five-Year Fertiliser Import Substitution Roadmap 2021-2025.

“By 2025 we should have enough capacity to satisfy at least the current demand, after that there are plans to further look into diversifying our operations and look into high analysis fertilisers into our mix of products.”

Economist Mr Teddy Gwerende said fertiliser self-sustenance  was critical for Zimbabwe considering that agriculture is the mainstay of the domestic economy

“Zimbabwe is currently importing over 75 percent of its basal fertiliser requirements, gobbling over US$400 million annually. 

“This is not something good for our economy. We need to value add our natural endowments, supply our own farmers, and earn more from exports if possible,” he said.

Agricultural value chains are a key priority in the National Development Strategy 1 (2021-2025), as Zimbabwe seeks to structurally transform its economy from commodity-based to increasing manufactured value-added products.

This all comes at a time when the Polyserve Fertiliser and Chemical Group of Egypt has shown keen interest in investing in the fertiliser sector in the country.

Zimbabwe could save itself from the menacing fertiliser price increases if the local fertiliser industry is capacitated.

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube is on record saying the Government will continue to restructure and strengthen the existing 78 agro-based value chains, including growing domestic production of fertiliser and other agricultural inputs.

He said considerations are underway for developing local content thresholds of all products and services in which the country has a comparative advantage which include pharmaceutical, fertiliser, and packaging sub-sectors.

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