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January 18, 2010

Zimbabwe increases grain hectarage, but fertilizer hard to get

Over 900 000 hectares countrywide have been put under maize during the 2009/10 summer cropping season compared to 600 000 hectares last season as Government intensifies the importation of top dressing fertilizers. Local companies have failed to produce enough fertilizer. Some farmers argue that this hectarage might go to waste if top dressing fertilizer is not made available on the market with immediate effect.

So far, over 284 000 hectares were put under small grains this season, an increase from last season's 203 000 hectares.

The increase in hectarage has seen an increase in demand for the scarce top dressing fertilizers.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Dr Joseph Made said there was need for top dressing fertilizers to be made available promptly to save the crop that is at a critical stage of growth. "Continued improved delivery of fertilizers to farmers is critical as well as continued improvement in rainfall. We still anticipate rainfall will improve and farmers should have the fertilizers with them so that they can apply when the conditions are conducive.

"Farmers' efforts should be rewarded and this will be achieved by making sure the crop that is there is saved. Thus top dressing should be made available to farmers quickly," he said.

There has been a critical shortage of top dressing fertilizers for the past three weeks, but the Government recently awarded tenders to seven companies to supply the commodity.

Government contracted Nyiombo from Zambia, Simama from Malawi, ASP from South Africa, Omnia, WestBay, ZFC and Windmill to supply top dressing fertilizers.

Although they were being assisted by the State to mobilise money to produce fertilizer, ZFC and Windmill were still facing production challenges.

"The initial contract will see Nyiombo providing 3 000 tonnes of urea, Simama 4 250 tonnes and South Africa's ASP will provide 11 500 tonnes of Urea, while Omnia will provide 1 000 tonnes of the same commodity. ZFC and Windmill could not give the quantity they will provide since they are facing problems with raw materials and constant power cuts that are also damaging machinery," Made said.

He said the Government would continue importing fertilizers for the next 24 months to meet the increasing demand. "Our emphasis is now on delivering the fertilizers to Grain Marketing Board depots and making sure farmers access them. We have now asked the contracted companies to give a full schedule seven days ahead to GMB in terms of areas where fertilizers will be delivered to," he said.

Most of the imported top dressing fertilizers are in the form of Urea, Limestome Ammonium Nitrate and Calcium Ammonium Nitrate.

Minister Made encouraged Agritex extension officers to work closely with the farmers to ensure that they use the fertilizers accurately.

"Farmers in the provinces of the country that are dry, the southern parts of Manicaland, Matabeleland South, some parts of Masvingo and Midlands should take note that urea should be applied and covered as it causes damage to crops if left uncovered," Minister Made said.

He urged the responsible authorities to quickly distribute the fertilizer.
"Let the little fertilizer that is there be made available to farmers on an equity basis," he said.

The Herald

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