SCARCITY of ammonium nitrate fertliser on the market has affected farmers in the Midlands as sole producer Sable Chemicals is battling to meet demand.
Sable Chemicals, which owes Zesa over $30 million in power bills, says it is battling with expensive power tariffs and a delayed plant maintenance due to capital constrains, among other challenges for the company to up production currently at below 50%.
The company now largely depends on expensive ammonium imports from Sasol South Africa to fill in the gaps in its production line.
Company chief executive officer Jack Murehwa said while he was not comfortable releasing actual production figures, activity at the plant was below 50% owing to a number of complex issues affecting production.
“We are operating at below 50% and we hope to break this barrier this year,” he said refusing to shed light on whether his company was failing to meet demand.
Murehwa, whose company wants to move away from manufacturing ammonium through the use of the world’s largest electrolysis plant and instead glean in through the use of coal in a process called coal gasification, said the complex issues affecting production were being discussed at national level.
“Cost of supply of power for the manufacture of ammonium nitrate in the country is not as simple as you put it. The cost of power to Sable is a matter that is handled at national level against a background of the need to have nitrogen for agriculture in Zimbabwe. To be considered are implications of having to import our nitrogen for crops against making our own. As I have told you before, I am unable to discuss specific figures pertaining to our power bills with the power utility,” he said.
Last year Vice-President Joice Mujuru led a high-powered delegation in a tour at the plant and promised that the government would ensure that full production was realised at Sable Chemicals because it was the backbone of the agriculture industry.