AGRICULTURE Minister Mtolo Phiri says the government hopes United Capital Fertiliser will complete its plant this year in order to cushion the price of the commodity.

And Mtolo says government is delighted that the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia has confirmed its participation in the production of fertiliser this coming farming season.

United Capital Fertiliser Company Zambia Limited, a company under Wonderful Group of Companies is constructing a fertiliser plant at an estimated cost of US$308 million which is expected to create over 1,100 jobs.

In an interview, Phiri said the only way to reduce the cost of fertiliser was through local production.

“We are absolutely delighted when people come to invest in Zambia to start producing in Zambia. That is the way to go. The common position is we are going to isolate the transport cost which has become a major component into the fertilizer’s high cost. To move fertilizer from wherever it is produced to the Middle East, from the Middle East to say Tanzania, from Tanzania to here it is a bit costly. So the best is to have production in Zambia. We have most of the aggregate here. We have got a lot of phosphates here,” he said.

“So it will be the best thing to do, we are very happy with this united fertilizer which one of the Marcopolo group of companies is putting up. We are hoping that everything goes on schedule and that they can probably supply fertilizer even this year because that is the only way we are going to reduce the price. We are also very delighted with NCZ because they have also given us confirmation that they will participate and produce fertilizer this season and we [will] likely get everything that they will produce.”

Asked about the long-term plans to ensure reduced cost of fertilizer, Phiri said the answer was in local production.

“So the answer Philip is to produce fertilizer locally not to import. We want to become like we have become on the seed industry where we are the hub and the distributor of seed. In the entire African region, the largest seed distributor is Zambia,” said Phiri.