The Sunday News
Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
THE Government has pledged continued support for the sole ammonium nitrate producer in the country, Sable Chemicals, to ensure that it increases production and plays its strategic role in the agriculture recovery plan and import substitution.
The company is already working on a US$25 million two-year expansion programme that is meant to increase production while eliminating reliance on importation of raw materials, which drains the economy of scarce forex resources. Since switching off its electrolysis plant two years ago, Sable Chemicals has been importing its major raw material, ammonia, from South Africa and is looking for other avenues of either manufacturing nitrogen or purchasing the commodity locally. The move has since received the Government backing.
Speaking during a tour of Sable Chemicals on the outskirts of Kwekwe on Thursday last week, Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, said revitalising the fertiliser company was critical in the country’s import substitution strategy. As such, she said the Government would do all it can to ensure Sable Chemicals realises its dream.
“As the Government we will remain committed to the import substitution strategy by Sable Chemicals. I will continue to work with the Ministry of Finance (and Economic Development) and Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and push so that the company and other fertiliser manufacturing companies continue to access foreign currency through the auction system. I would like to commend the company investment of US$25 million in the next two years. That way they will increase production, which is in line with our quest of import substitution.”
Dr Nzenza said the Government has since contracted Sable Chemicals to supply fertiliser for the upcoming farming season, which places further obligation for increased capacity in the firm.
“The Government has already contracted Sable Chemicals to supply 30 000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate for the 2020/21 farming season. I am reliably informed that production of the fertiliser began at the beginning of October,” she said.
“I am also told that during the first half of 2020, the company produced 7 300 tonnes of AN in line with Sable Chemicals’ fertiliser import substitution plan.”
Sable Chemicals and other fertiliser manufacturing companies play a pivotal role in the implementation of the agricultural recovery programme.
Speaking at the same occasion, Minister of State for Midlands Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Senator Larry Mavima, said Sable Chemicals can go a long way in improving the food security in the country if given adequate support.
“I would like to commend the Government for assisting the company through the import substitution programme for manufacturing AN fertiliser. The company has the potential to produce not only fertiliser enough for the country but for the whole region,” he said.
“These are the first steps for the country to reclaim our bread basket status.”
The company has the capacity to produce 240 000 tonnes per year, employing about 500 workers at its peak. Currently it is producing at 45 percent capacity and employing about 300 workers.