By Fred M’membe
THE FAILURE TO SUPPLY FERTILISER ON TIME
The leaders of this current government are too focused on becoming very rich, being the richest Zambians to really get a good appreciation of the fertiliser business in Zambia and get an in-depth understanding of the outlook with regard to fertiliser supply, given the current global geopolitical tensions, COVID-19 pandemic, and the domestic macro-economic environment and challenges that the business is facing.
If the factors that led to this failure to supply our poor people with fertilisers at the right time and in the needed quantities are not understood and resolved we will not see a reversal of fortunes in agriculture.
There are serious problems of lack of transparency and predictability in the whole fertiliser supply business. There was a very serious lack of information by the Ministry of Agriculture on tenders for the 2022/23 farming season, and this has, to a very large extent, led to the delay and the many serious hurdles in securing fertilisers, especially in the current environment where the suppliers are facing price volatility at source in the global market.
At a minimum, suppliers need four months to secure and deliver fertiliser into the country. This government, without explanation, cancelled the open tenders at the end of August and “secretly” awarded tenders thereafter. Importers can only secure stocks of fertilisers after government determines its requirements and the financing arrangements governing the programme.
And offtake of fertiliser on the open market will be low this season given the prices – K1,200 for a 50 kg bag instead of the K250 per 50 kg bag they had promised our people – currently facing the users, and as such this speaks to lower procurement forecasts for the open market as well. The consequences of this don’t require many disquisitions.
If decisions were made in good time and tenders were awarded accordingly, the procurement of Urea may not have been as problematic as that of securing D-Compound. This required the government to award FISP tenders no later than June.