Foreign currency shortages threaten fertiliser, input deliveries

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WORLD CURRENCY NOTES

SHORTAGES of foreign currency may result in late delivery of fertilisers and other inputs to farmers, Parliament was told this week.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Agriculture permanent secretary Ringson Chitsiko told the Christopher Chitindi-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Lands and Agriculture that fertiliser manufacturers and agro-chemical producers had, however, since started to manufacture, a situation which has allayed fears of shortages of inputs.

“Two weeks ago, the summer farming season was faced with shortages of foreign currency to import basil and top dressing fertiliser,” he said.

“But since one and a half weeks ago, the situation has been addressed and fertiliser manufacturers and agro-chemical importers have since started receiving foreign exchange at levels that have allayed fears for shortages of inputs for the summer cropping season.”

Chitsiko added: “The seed maize requirements of 45 000 metric tonnes are in place, as this particular product is produced in the country, and inputs for the Presidential input programme are already being delivered to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).”

He said by mid-October, distribution of inputs to farmers would commence.

Chitsiko said under the Presidential Inputs Scheme, the country required 90 000 metric tonnes of basil fertiliser,
98 000 metric tonnes of top dressing fertiliser, and 1 000 metric tonnes of sorghum.

“This year, over and above cereal grains, there is going to be soya bean requirement of 18 000 metric tonnes and seed is available in the country. The bulk of our plantings are rain felled and the rains we have just had are not planting rains. There has also been anxiety on shortages of fuel in the market, but it was collected and diesel is now available,” he said.

Agritex director Joseph Gondo told the committee that 100 000 hectares of tobacco were targeted for the summer crop, and 90 000 hectares for soya beans.

He said under command agriculture, 290 000 hectares were targeted for maize, whereby 200 000 would be planted on dry land and 90 000 irrigated, with soya bean command agriculture targeted for 60 000 hectares.

“The actual distribution of inputs has not started, but seed maize is available and distribution will begin soon. We have challenges of fertiliser stocks, which are limited,” Gondo said.

GMB acting general manager Lawrence Jasi said the country’s current maize stocks were 1 913 049 metric tonnes, adding the GMB received $427 318 970 million to pay for maize or cereal deliveries including soya.

“The value of the crop so far is $467m and we are getting allocations from Treasury on a weekly basis and are paying farmers up to September 21. In August, we received close to $400 000 metric tonnes of maize and it posed challenges in terms of storage capacity.”

Jasi said a tender would be flighted next week to find a company that would supply GMB with grain driers.

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