Zambia

FERTILISER CARTEL CONTINUE…citizens will pay through the nose, warns officia

Fertiliser Cartel Continue…Citizens Will Pay Through The Nose, Warns Officia

FERTILISER CARTEL CONTINUE…citizens will pay through the nose, warns officia

Fertiliser Cartel Continue…Citizens Will Pay Through The Nose, Warns Officia

FERTILISER CARTEL CONTINUE
…citizens will pay through the nose, warns official

By Oliver Chisenga and Kombe Mataka

THE delay to float tenders for supply of fertiliser should be seen within the context of the work and insatiable appetite of a local cartel to continue supplying the commodity to the government at exorbitant prices, a senior government official has warned.

“The cartel continues as government and the citizens pay through the nose. Some government officials are more dangerous to the good agenda of the new dawn government than the cartel itself,” the source warns.

But agriculture minister Reuben Mtolo says fertiliser supply tenders could be advertised possibly next week.

The official who chose to be anonymous told The Mast that one cartel has schemed with some government officials to deliberately sit on the tenders for the 2022-2023 farming season which should have been floated by now.

The official bemoaned the few numbers of fetiliser suppliers on the market, hence the monopoly enjoyed so far.

“This has been the case year in, year out. In the case of Zambia, players in the fertiliser industry have managed to weave their way into every political administration to perpetuate their dominance and disadvantage consumers. They have done this by literally having key government officials in their pockets,” the official said.

“This partly explains why, despite Zambia being an agricultural country, we have always imported fertiliser and hardly managed to recapitalise Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia to operate at full capacity and produce the fertiliser locally. Locally produced fertiliser will push the cost of fertiliser lower and throw the cartel out of
business.”

The official recalled that President Hakainde Hichilema had on several occasions indicated the need to reduce the price of fertiliser to lower the cost of agriculture production.

The official however noted that such progressive ambitions were being undermined by the fertiliser cartel working with some government officials at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Ordinarily, tenders for supply of fertiliser are published between February and March. Surprisingly, up to this time, the Ministry of Agriculture has not yet floated the tender. Why? What is going on? Are they being methodical and systematic? We ask this because it is a well-known fact that the supply and distribution chain of fertiliser is complicated, both abroad where it is imported and locally where our road infrastructure especially in rural areas leaves much to be desired,” the source said.

“More importantly, however, the 2022/23 farming season has unique challenges. The global fertiliser industry is just recovering from the pandemic shocks. In addition, Ukraine and Russia, two leading producers of fertiliser as well as suppliers of potassium, a major ingredient in the product of basal fertiliser (D Compound) are involved in a war whose end is not in sight. With sanctions on Russia and Ukraine being unable to supply, the global demand for fertiliser has shifted to the few remaining markets.”

The source highlighted other challenges Zambia has been grappling with.

“In our case, the flood disaster that hit Durban in South Africa has introduced additional logistical challenges owing to the scale of destruction brought about on the ports and other facilities there. Given all these events, one would have thought that the Ministry of Agriculture would be proactive and float the tenders well in advance as the global supply of fertiliser reduces in the face of increased demand. Nigeria, for example, acted proactively and has already secured its supplies,” the source said.

The official noted that by the time Zambia would be placing her order through the selected suppliers, it would be at the tail end of the long global production schedule for fertiliser.

“But don’t the officials at the Ministry of Agriculture understand this? Of course, they do,” the official noted with worry.

The source however said the delay was deliberate and well calculated, stating that by the time the tender would be floated, there would not be other suppliers to participate, mobilise funds and secure the commodity and deliver it on time to the government.

“However, the cartel would have already secured the commodity and have it within reach in the shortest time possible. This scenario works well for the cartel as they would now be in full control and in a strong position to dictate the prices. Since government ought to give fertiliser to the farmers whatever happens, higher price won’t be a factor at this point. Farmers will be waiting for the commodity,” said the source.

“Government must deliver. The cartel has the fertiliser but at a higher price. It will be game over. The cartel continues as government and the citizens pay through the nose. Some government officials are more dangerous to the good agenda of the new dawn government than the cartel itself…Nipano tuli (let’s wait and see).”

But Mtolo called for patience, adding that the tenders would be advertised within this month.

“Now in as far as this year is concerned, I think you could be seeing adverts coming out. If not next week, then after next week. There should be adverts in the papers which will attract people to bid. That will give them enough time to bid because we expect the fertilisers to be in season before distribution period which is in September,” he said in an interview.
Mtolo said last year suppliers were given enough time to deliver but some of them just failed on their own.

“First of all, let us correct the hitch that last year’s difficult deliveries were as a result of late tendering. No, because the suppliers of fertliser last year were given these orders a year ago. Remember, these were the colleagues who were lucky to have two years running tenders. So, how would that be related to time?” asked Mtolo.

“It has nothing to do with time. Suppliers had sufficient time, etcetera. And if you are very observant, truth be told, the fertilisers last year were not delivered very late. But there was failure by some companies to deliver fertiliser. Up to now some companies have failed to deliver. But in terms of periods, no, no,no, no, they had sufficient time. Our friends had given these suppliers two-year rolling tenders.”

Credit: The Mast

Source – Zambianobserver.com

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