ZIMBABWE’S sole ammonium nitrate fertiliser manufacturer, Sable Chemicals, on Sunday shut down operations at its electrolysis plant due to the country’s power shortages.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
At its peak, the Kwekwe-based firm consumed 80 megawatts (MW) before it recently scaled down to 40MW after shutting down five out of 10 electrolysis units.
Zesa further scaled down power supplies to the company, forcing the Jack Murehwa-led executive to shut down the entire production unit on Sunday.
“The decision has been made by the authorities that we have to reduce our power further so that the power is provided to other sectors of the economy. We are going to have to take the electrolysis off and leave the other plant, so we will still be able to bring in some ammonium and convert it,” he said.
He, however, said the company did not have the money to immediately start ammonia imports, as it was owed over $200 million by government.
Production manager Allen Manhanga said the company might also lay off about 200 of its 480 workers to reduce operating costs.
“We will need to reduce our operational costs and also to ensure that operations remain profitable by cutting our manning levels,” he said.
Sable Chemicals has always fought with Zesa over the subsidised power rates, which have seen the company buying power at 5 cents, when the industry going rate is 11 cents.
On numerous occasions, Zesa has switched off Sable Chemicals over a $30 million debt.
Murehwa said owing to the power crisis, his company had cut production by 30% from a target of 100 000 tonnes of AN to just 70 000 tonnes.