The Sunday Mail
Brian Chitemba and Livingstone Marufu
A sudden hike in fertiliser prices has prompted Government to order teams to monitor the situation and come up with recommendations on how to institute reductions ahead of the 2017/2018 main cropping season.
Fertiliser prices have jumped to US$41 from US$32 per 50kg bag of compound D, and to US$39 from US$33 for 50kg of ammonium nitrate.
The Zimbabwe Fertiliser Manufacturers Association says the costs of imported raw materials and packaging in an environment characterised by foreign currency shortages have necessitated the price increases.
Zimbabwe requires about 250 000 tonnes of AN and similar quantities of compound fertilisers per summer cropping season.
Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Mike Bimha said, “We have teams monitoring and taking note of fertiliser prices. By Monday (tomorrow) we should have enough information about what is going on.
“We want our actions to be properly informed by what is happening on the ground. Starting this week, we will move to reduce fertiliser prices.
“The idea is to have affordable fertiliser for farmers to produce food and raw materials for the manufacturing sector.”
Government has already created a US$56 million Fertiliser Facility to normalise the supply and price situation.
The State is also countering wanton increases in the prices of other inputs by allowing companies and farmers to directly import their requirements.
Dr Bimha said companies and individuals with free funds had the green light to import fertilisers and agro-chemicals.
“Government is taking steps to improve accessibility and enhance affordability of fertilisers and agro-chemicals required by farmers for the 2017/ 2018 agricultural season.
“I am, therefore, calling upon those corporates and individuals with access to free funds to proceed without delay and import fertilisers and agro-chemicals for both livestock and crops for sale to the farming community.”
Dr Bimha said agro-chemicals which farmers could import include herbicides, insecticides and animal remedies.
The minister said to avoid dumping of sub-standard and unsuitable products, all importers were expected to comply with prescribed rules and regulations, which are available from the Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Ministry.
He advised prospective importers to acquire the necessary permits and licenses from the Agriculture and Commerce ministries.
Agriculture Minister Dr Joseph Made has blamed saboteurs for the price increases, calling it an attempt to choke agricultural output.
There are concerns that some companies are withholding inputs under the guise of foreign currency shortages.
However, the Government has been allocating foreign currency to the farming inputs manufacturers.
Dr Made told our sister publication, The Saturday Herald, last week that; “It is as if its an attempt to lay the recipe for an unsuccessful 2017/2018 agricultural season. Cabinet has since directed that the matter gets the urgency it deserves.
“We have to make sure there are measures in place to deal with the problem and one of the measures is to allow those with their own resources to import agricultural inputs.
“More measures are coming, but in relation to this session, we are allowing those with their own resources. We cannot take control of entities that supply agricultural inputs but we need to futuristically look at measures that make agricultural inputs readily available to our farmers and that prices are not exploited.”