Government and fertiliser companies are at loggerheads over a US$50 million debt, a development that has seen winter wheat farmers failing to access the critical input.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made last week accused the fertiliser companies of holding Government to ransom.
“I have just been informed by the Grain Marketing Board that fertiliser companies are refusing to deliver the fertiliser we ordered.
“Admittedly, we owe them some money, but this is a clear case of sabotage by detractors of the land reform programme.
“Right now, we are being accused of poor planning, yet we had our scheme on time. The Minister of Industry and Commerce (Professor Welshman Ncube) does not allow me to have dialogue with the fertiliser companies, saying I will be interfering with his duties,” he said.
Dr Made said although Government owns a 50 percent stake in the Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC), its efforts were being frustrated by other shareholders.
“The three fertiliser companies — ZFC, Windmill and Myiombo — have pushed me to the edge and I am left with no option but to propose that we set up a Zimbabwe National Fertiliser Authority that is 100 percent owned by Government. For the winter inputs we no longer have an option but to import the fertiliser,” he said.
Fertiliser company representatives argue that they cannot continue supplying Government when it has failed to service its debt.
ZFC marketing executive Mr Justice Chimuka noted that his company is yet to renew its agreement with Government and will only do so after the State pays the US$10 million it owes the company.
“We have the fertiliser in stock and are willing to supply if Government pays us what it owes from last season,” he said.
Windmill marketing executive Mr Herbert Chakanyuka disclosed that the Government and the fertiliser companies were also failing to agree on the pricing of the input for this season.
“Government is offering to pay US$500 per tonne but we feel that US$600 is the correct price. A price of US$500 per tonne will push us out of business,” said Mr Chakanyuka.
Government last month launched the US$20 million winter wheat input scheme.
However, the programme has not yielded much with most farmers missing the May 15 winter wheat planting deadline.