Government is considering various options to capacitate the fertiliser industry, including funding, as it looks at boosting agricultural productivity and food security, a senior official has said.
Over the past years, local fertiliser companies have always struggled to meet demand due to subdued domestic production largely resulting from foreign currency shortages to import essential raw materials.
This, compounded by recurring droughts caused by climate breakdown, has depressed agricultural yields, putting the country at high risk of food insecurity.
“We are now working on strengthening our import substitution strategy and linking this to the agriculture recovery plan,” Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza told The Herald Finance & Business in an interview yesterday.
“This entails strengthening companies that are making fertiliser and conversations are already underway. The Ministries of Finance (and Economic Development) and Agriculture are involved. It is a process but we are hoping that the strategy will help ensure food security in the country.”
The World Food Programme, an agency of the United Nations estimates that about 7,7 million Zimbabweans, about half the population, are food insecure following a drought, which affected maize yields and other cash crops such as cotton.
This year, maize output is estimated to about one million tonnes, an increase of 17 percent from last year but inadequate to meet demand as the country requires 1,8 million tonnes per year.
The Government has already embarked on a programme to rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure and build new facilities to outsmart poor rains caused by the devastating effects of climate change.
Fertiliser Association of Zimbabwe president Mr Tapuwa Mashingaidze said demand for this season would be around 400 000 tonnes with at least US$150 million needed.
“We are hoping that we will mobilise enough resources to meet demand, which we think will approach 400 000 tonnes in order to achieve reasonable yields,” said Mr Mashingaidze.
“Our hope is also that the foreign currency auction system will continue very well.”
There are 12 fertiliser manufacturing companies in Zimbabwe with most of the newer ones being involved in making blended NPK compounds.
Out of these, three companies are involved in the primary production of raw materials and these are Dorowa Minerals, which mines phosphate, which is in turn converted to fertiliser grade by ZimPhos in Harare.
Sable Chemicals manufactures ammonium nitrate from imported ammonia following the closure of its high power consuming electrolysis plant.
Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company, Windmill and FSG are involved in granulation and blending. There are other several medium-sized firms which are also involved in blending including ETG and Ominia.
Minister Nzenza said it was critical to create linkages among the existing players in the industry to achieve.
Zimbabwe requires at least 500 000 tonnes of both nitrate and compound fertilisers to meet national requirements for farming.