Dirty govt deal exposed

There is total confusion in the fertiliser supply this farming season.

While private suppliers have already bought and distributed fertiliser to the districts across the country, the government has for the first time sourced a loan from Stanbic Bank to buy fertiliser from Saudi Arabia which is now stuck in Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salam

The government has bought the fertiliser under very unclear circumstances and there are fears of massive corruption in the purchase transport and distribution of the stocks..

With the planting season only a few weeks away, the government has asked farmers to wait for the fertiliser sourced from Saudi Arabia.

The ship bringing the first 25,000 metric tonnes has just docked in Tanzania and will take a number of weeks to be offloaded and even more weeks to be transported to Zambia by rail before it is finally redistributed by trucks around the country.

It is not known when the next shipment of the last 25,000 metric tonnes would arrive in the country to be distributed together with top dressing that has been manufactured by Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia.

The deal in which Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) of Saudi Arabia has been contracted to supply fertiliser by the PF government could turn out to be the country’s worst corruption scandal with the potential to adversely affect the next marketing season.

The delayed importation of 50,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser from Saudi Arabia, part of the consignment which is now marooned in Dar es Salam, would most likely delay the distribution of the input to farmers under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

In March this year, the government announced that it had introduced new measures of accessing farm inputs which should have seen 25,000 metric tonnes distributed through the E-Voucher system which has since been suspended leaving farmers vulnerable.

The Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) was then contracted to produce 70,000 metric tonnes of D-Compound also known as basal dressing while 50,000 metric tonnes of Urea was to be sourced from the most unlikely country, Saudi Arabia.

The importation of fertiliser from Saudi Arabia, the first time ever, has raised a lot of concerns because the private companies which should have brought in 50,000 metric tonnes of Urea had their plans shattered after the government decided to directly engage itself in the deal.

While the government is claiming that the fertiliser imported from Saudi Arabia is cheaper than locally sourced one, the overhead costs such as freight and handling push the total cost higher than the local quotes.

In March this year, Luxon Kazabu announced a tender for the importation of Urea fertiliser and seventeen companies, local and international, bid for the tender but it was cancelled by the late information and broadcasting services minister Kennedy Sakeni for unknown reasons.

Soon after the cancellation of the tender, a special committee comprising permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Secretary to the Treasury some members from the Ministry of Commerce as well as officers from the Office of the President-Special Division was constituted to oversee the importation of the fertiliser.

The special team was then sent to Saud Arabia to go look at the conditions and in July the team came back as they could not sign the Urea fertiliser deal because the company from which the commodity was being sourced was demanding upfront payment.

The government has applied for express clearance of the stocks and the High Commissioner in Tanzania Judith Kapijimpanga was to make sure that the Tanzanian Revenue Authority had a waiver on the special clearance of the fertiliser stocks.Kapijimpanga has since written to the Tanzanian Port Authority seeking express and special clearance but the challenge the government is facing is how to transport the stocks as the Zambia Railways has given conditions that the government has failed to meet.