Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo has said Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) is incapacitated and cannot produce 15,000 metric tonnes of basal fertiliser that the company needed to manufacture for the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) under the 2019/ 2020 farming season.

Responding to a question from UPND Kafue member of parliament Mirriam Chinyama who wanted to know why the quantities in the contract awarded to NCZ under the FISP during the 2019/2020 farming season had been reduced from 15,000 metric tonnes to 10,000, Katambo said NCZ had obsolete machinery which made it difficult to reach production of 15, 000 metric tonnes of basal fertiliser.

“The incapacity of NCZ lies in the machinery that they have. Mr Speaker, NCZ has old machinery, obsolete machinery; that is why you heard me in the statement that they are only indicated to produce about a 1,000 tonnes in a week, meaning that the machinery that they have is quite obsolete that also causes the NCZ to be incapacitated. Initially, government had contracted the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia to supply 15, 000 metric tonnes of D Compound fertilizer under the Input Support Programme on the understanding that NCZ had already 7,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer in stock. Therefore, NCZ was expected to produce an addition of 8,000 metric tonnes to meet its supply quota. However, through close monitoring, the Ministry of Agriculture discovered that the 7,000 metric tonnes that was indicated in stock by NCZ was already committed elsewhere. As of 12th November, 2019, NCZ had only delivered 4, 212 metric tonnes, 649 metric tonnes was reported in transit and a further 2, 782 metric tonnes was reported at the plant,” Katambo said.

“Therefore the total quantity produced to date is 7,643 metric tonnes of D Compound fertilizer. Taking cognizant that the plant has the capacity of 1, 000 metric tonnes per week, it will take NCZ eight weeks for [it] to produce and deliver the remaining D Compound fertilizer. This does not even include what has been produced but not delivered by NCZ. As you may be aware, D Compound fertilizer is a basal dressing fertilizer that is used at planting and late delivery by NCZ will result in poor crop production. Therefore, the quantity was reduced from 15,000 metric tonnes to 10,000 metric tonnes because NCZ does not have the capacity to produce and deliver the fertilizer in time for planting.”

He said the Ministry of Agriculture did not counter-check to ensure that NCZ had the capacity to produce the 15,000 before awarding it a supply contract.

“These suppliers indicated to the Ministry that they had the capacity to produce. So physically, Ministry of Agriculture did not go to their premise to physically check their production capacity. But the Ministry of Agriculture requested them to prove that they had capacity to produce the quantity per each supplier, for example, NCZ 15,000 metric tonnes. NCZ had proved to the Ministry that they were able to produce 15,000 metric tonnes; but along the way, this was what was discovered that the other 7,000 which NCZ produced was committed elsewhere and for them to complete 15,000, NCZ was found limping…,” Katambo said.

“The 10,000 metric tonnes was arrived at after consultations with NCZ so as to maintain a level of economic activity in Kafue. It was a tough decision made by government to ensure that over 100 000 farming households in the areas that were to be supplied by NCZ were not made food insecure due to late delivery inputs.”

He said government further awarded the deficit of 5,000 metric tonnes of D Compound fertilizer to Alpha Commodities and Nyimba Investments to distribute to Luapula and Northern provinces.

“NCZ was given two provinces to supply; it was Luapula Province and Northern Province and was given 12 districts within these two provinces to supply. The 5,000 metric tonnes has been awarded to Alpha commodities and Nyimba investments because in the letters of credit or in the contracts rather, there is the buffer where the suppliers can be able in that case of need to supply extra tonnages,” said Katambo.