The ammonium will be supplied by Sasol, a diversified South African chemical company, and is convertible to 20 000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate. Sources said Government brokered the deal although it was not clear how the debt would be settled. "The money has already been paid to Sasol and we are waiting for the delivery of the consignment," said one source who spoke on condition of anonymity. About 800 000 tonnes of both AN and basal fertilizers are required for the 2007/08 farming season. Last week, Agriculture Minister Mr Rugare Gumbo said Government was targeting to import 800 000 tonnes of basal and top dressing fertilizers to avert the looming shortage of the critical farming input.
Mr Gumbo said strategies were being pursued to finance and boost the capacity of the local industry. Industry and International Trade Minister Mr Obert Mpofu could not comment. Fertilizer companies were currently operating at 30 percent capacity, according to industry players. Presently Sable, the country’s sole producer of AN, is surviving on toll manufacturing contracts from local companies such as the Cotton Company of Zimbabwe, Cargill and Alliance Ginneries, among other players in the cotton industry.
The company, whose maximum production capacity is 240 000 tonnes per year, has only been operating at half mast, churning out 120 000 tonnes per year. No comment could be obtained from Sables general manager Mr John Mhunduru as his mobile phone went unanswered. Apart from raw material shortages, the company is also facing recurrent breakdowns at its plant. Sables indicated that it needed US$40 million to refurbish the plant.
Conglomerate TA Holdings owns 51 percent in Sables. Government plans to put 3,2 million hectares under maize, small grains, cotton and oil seeds during the 2007/08 farming season.