Fertiliser scam exposed

Huge amounts of substandard fertilisers are entering the country unhindered because government does  not test the consignments despite Zambia Bureau of Standards demanding payment  from companies involved in fertiliser importation before any consignment is allowed into the country.

Information obtained by the Daily Nation reveal that private companies importing fertilizer into the country are being charged by the Zambia Bureau of Standards K1, 826.50 for every metric tonnes at entry points.

Failure by the government to test fertiliser means that farmers are now receiving g substandard fertiliser which will eventually affect their yields and national food security.

A laboratory test schedule obtained by the Daily Nation revealed huge discrepancies in chemical composition of the fertilisers imported in the country. A sample from Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia also showed that its product was equally below par but better than other braids.

Efforts to establish whether ZABS were testing the fertiliser failed to produce positive results as officials from ZABS demanded for a press questionnaire maintaining that the issue of fertiliser this time was very sensitive and needed to be handled carefully.

But according to rest results obtained by the Daily Nation, out of the nine companies importing and one producing fertiliser locally, all had deficiencies in the composition of the products and while tolerances are accepted, some variances were as high as 45 percent.

The high variances meant that almost half of the fertiliser component was missing thereby rendering the fertiliser compromised and ineffective.

Private companies importing fertilizer into the country are paying an exorbitant K900 000 for inspection, sampling, testing and certification by the Zambia Bureau of Standards (ZBS) and a named company was charged K1 826.50 per truck for a consignment of 60 metric tonnes of urea which was never tested.

The inability by government to have procured fertilizer in good time and the abolition of the E-voucher system coupled with the undesirable batter system was likely to affect yield in the next crop marketing season.

In the last marketing season, the country recorded an eight percent reduction in maize production and with the current confusion in the procurement and distribution of the farming inputs, it is predicted that Zambia might record a further drop in maize production.

There is a high probability that Zambia may in the next coming years begin importing maize as the agriculture would have been thrown into shambles.

The delay by government to procure fertilizer is causing panic among farmers and private companies have filled in the gap as they have flooded the markets with all manner of fertilizer.

The Zambia Agriculture Research Institute has admitted that unscrupulous businessmen have flooded the market with an assortment of all manner of fertilizers and that farmers were facing the risk of being cheated out of their money.

Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) deputy director Samuel Phiri has said there were a variety of different brands of fertilizers that were not authenticated or tested by the Zambia Bureau of Standards on the market.

Dr Phiri claimed that the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) had been given a contract to manufacture 70 500 metric tonnes of D-Compound and that the company had so far produced 67 000 metric tonnes which was being distributed to farmers under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).

Dr Phiri said there was no need for farmers to get desperate because government had put in all the necessary measures to ensure that fertilizer was delivered and distributed to all farmers under FISP.

Omnia, Nyiombo, Greenbelt Fertilizers, ETG, Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ), Profert and Lowis Dreyfus have been supplying different brands of basal dressing fertilizers raising suspicions that some companies could have been taking advantage of the situation to cheat farmers.