Zimbabwe’s fertiliser industry has assured farmers that there will be adequate stocks to cater for farming needs during the forthcoming season as many companies have managed to secure foreign currency on the auction market.
Some companies are using letters of credit to import critical raw materials, chairman of the Zimbabwe Fertiliser Manufacturers Association, Mr Tapiwa Mashingaidze said.
Zimbabwe requires at least 400 000 tonnes of fertilisers in a normal season.
Over the past years, fertiliser producers struggled to secure foreign currency to import raw materials and this resulted in low production and serious shortages.
Demand for this season is likely to be strong on the back of good rains.
Government-assisted farming programmes such as Presidential inputs schemes are also expected to increase demand.
“We have managed to get foreign currency from the auction market and this has helped producers to import some raw materials. So we are likely to have stable supplies this farming season,” said Mr Mashingaidze.
“From our side, the capacity to supply is there. What can only affect demand is low disposable incomes on the part of our customers.”
Between January and June this year, production of fertiliser was subdued largely due to foreign currency shortage.
During the period, Sable Chemicals had produced around 7 300 tonnes, which is 9 percent of the targeted 90 000 tonnes for the year.
The low production figures were attributed to shortage of foreign currency to import ammonia gas, a major raw material.
Some analysts have, however, said while stable supplies are anticipated, many farmers, especially small scale and communal farmers may not afford.
“It is encouraging that the producers have assured adequate supplies though the biggest issue now is the affordability,” said Mr Joseph Ngurazi, an analyst with a local research firm.
“I see a situation where the fertiliser floods shops, but with few buyers.”
Zimbabwe is expecting an early rainy season, starting with scattered falls this month, firming into heavy rains next month.
The Met Office has predicted normal-to-above-normal rainfall, which may translate to a bumper agricultural harvest if the distribution of the rains is good and the farmers are well-prepared especially getting key inputs such as fertilisers on time.
October rains are generally erratic for rain-fed agriculture, but more effective rains are expected from November into December in most places.
Flash flooding, violent storms, tropical cyclones, floods in low-lying areas and storms at the onset of the season cannot be ruled out.
The Meteorological Services Department annually convenes a National Climate Outlook Forum where the seasonal rainfall forecast for the upcoming rainfall season is presented to national stakeholders.
This year the forum was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The forum follows the regional Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum, whose statement covers relatively large areas and may slightly differ from the local forecast, as it may not fully account for all the factors that influence national climate variability.
Region 1, which comprises Harare, most of the Mashonaland provinces, north-eastern parts of Midlands and most of Manicaland will receive normal to above normal rains from this month to March next year.
Region 2, which covers the greater part of Matabeleland North, parts of Bulawayo, parts of Midlands and parts of Mashonaland West, will receive normal to below normal rainfall during the period October to December and receive normal to above normal rainfall for the period January to March 2021.
Region 3, which consists of Masvingo, most parts of Midlands, extreme southern parts of Manicaland and the bulk of Matabeleland South, will have normal to above normal rains from January to March.