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July 20, 2008

Zimbabwe: Produce inputs on time or face jail, Mugabe warns fertiliser manufacturers

Zimbabwe's President Mugabe has said the fertiliser industry had up to the end of the month (July) to deliver fertiliser to the market.

Government, he said, had already promised farmers that the fertilizer would be available before the start of the new season (October.)

Mugabe said government had persistently failed to ensure the timeous availability of inputs in successive agricultural seasons as it had repeatedly been let down by the industry.

"Government has not done well for a number of years because those we had trusted to do well have not done so. The fertilizer companies ask for money from government (hard to get foreign currency for the importation of fertiliser raw materials) and when we have provided that, they fail to produce. This time ... there should not be any failure on their part, everyone should succeed. By August and September we should be able to say: ‘Yes, this is the fertilizer that we have promised, it is all there.’ Otherwise it’s jail," Mugabe said.

An industry official is reported to have made a U-turn this month when he wrote to the central bank advising it they had not started producing because of several challenges. He also appealed to the bank to allocate the industry more money and gave a promise that the industry would only be in a position to supply the country with fertilizer in September, by which time it would be too late for most farmers.

Such excuses have become common with the industry, which has continued pushing forward delivery dates, but never actually delivering in the end.

Fertilizer is critical to the success of the agrarian reform and its unavailability on the market has caused some anxious moments for winter wheat farmers and those preparing for the forthcoming summer cropping season.

The Herald

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