Govt U-turns on fertilizer procurement

The government which had previously written off 17 local suppliers in the procurement and distribution of 65,000 tonnes of Urea fertilizer is now desperately seeking their support to meet the growing pressure for the distribution of Urea fertilizer.
While private suppliers had already bought and distributed fertiliser to the districts across the country, the government sourced a loan from Stanbic Bank to buy fertiliser from Saudi Arabia part of which is now stuck in Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salam.
The PF government had bought the fertiliser under very unclear circumstances and fears of massive corruption in the purchase, transport and distribution of the stocks were high and it has now been confirmed that the distribution exercise is in a mess and government has gone back to the private suppliers in the hope of covering up for their failures.
Mazabuka Member of Parliament Garry Nkombo said after the government’s letter of credit with Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) of Saudi Arabiahad been signed, there was still no fertilizer in most parts of the country long after the planting season had closed.
Nkombo disclosed that last week, Agriculture Minister Sichinga pleaded with some local suppliers to help government distribute fertilizer.
Nkombo has warned Zambians to brace themselves for high prices of mealie meal and other basis commodities as a result of the expected poor harvest.
In November last year, UPND Kalomo Member of Parliament (MP) Request Muntanga moved a motion on the procurement and distribution of fertilizer urging the government to hasten the distribution to meet the erratic rainfall pattern but the motion was shot down.
“Despite the warning from the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) over the danger of abandoning the local suppliers in the procurement and distribution of fertilizer, the process has been the most chaotic in the last 49 years,” Nkombo said.
The Mazabuka MP said President Sata must consider dismissing Sichinga for lying to Zambians that the distribution of fertilizer was on course that all the districts were receiving the inputs.
The most affected region by the chaotic distribution of Urea Fertilizer is Eastern Province where only 4,000 tonnes out of the 16,000 tonnes had been delivered by the government.
Nyimba, Chadiza, Petauke, Katete and Vubwi have not received the top-dressing fertilizer while on the Copperbelt Province only three of the ten districts were accessing fertilizer which had been supplied by the private sector.
Other districts such as Mpongwe, Masaiti, Mufulira, Kafulafuta, Chingola and other districts had not started receiving the inputs.
And officials within government have told the Daily Nation that Sichinga should explain why some parts of the country such as Eastern Province were not receiving farming inputs.The sources said Government had pleaded with Nyiombo to help the chaotic and delayed distributing process and that the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) which was given a contract to produce 70,000 tonnes of basal dressing had started accessing fertilizer from Nyiombo depots.
“NCZ has approached Nyiombo and have been accessing basal dressing from their depots and farmers in Kapirimposhi have started receiving the inputs. But the challenge is that loading has slowed down in some parts because some areas had become inaccessible because of the rains,” the source said.