Fertiliser costs threaten bumper harvest

(Last Updated On: November 24, 2022)



Zimbabwe’s projected output of three million metric tonnes of maize during the 2022/2023 summer cropping season is under threat following the doubling of fertiliser raw materials and shipping costs, triggering another wave of price increase.

According to an Impact of the Ukraine crisis in Zimbabwe document from the Sustainable Development Goals Fund, World Food Programme, International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and Food and Agriculture Organisation, fertiliser costs are likely going to hamper promising agriculture season and land the country into another food crisis year.

“The effect of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on fertiliser is manifesting through high landed prices, transaction and research costs. Globally, the conflict has had a significant impact on the supply of fertiliser raw materials – creating a shortage and leading to all-time-high price increases of over 100%.

“The cost, insurance, and freight for ammonium nitrate, muriate of potash and mono ammonium phosphate in Zimbabwe rose to US$1,100, US$1,250 and US$1,400 per tonne respectively in 2022 from around US$600 per tonne in 2020,” reads the part of the document.

The food aid groups said the resultant effect is price increases for widely used fertiliser types such as AN and Compound D rising by an average of 18% to US$65 and US$45 respectively in 2022 from an estimated US$55 and US$38 in 2021.

“These higher prices are making fertilisers unaffordable and out of reach to communal farmers and will hurt the productivity of maize, soybeans and other crops in the main 2022/23 cropping season.

“48% of households surveyed report facing challenges in accessing agricultural inputs; the highest prevalence is reported in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.

“Among those facing access challenges, high cost was reported as the main barrier, particularly by households in Mashonaland East (89%) and Mashonaland Central (86%). This poses a risk to rural households that rely on agriculture as their main livelihood activity,” the document said.

Zimbabwe National Farmers Union chairman Stewart Mubonderi said the doubling of fertiliser prices will affect the projected output.

“Given that fertiliser costs have gone up by over 100%, we are likely to see our harvest go down significantly unless the government intervenes with subsidies,” Mubonderi said.

“Normal to above normal rainfall pattern had been projected this year hence there was a need for the government to ensure fertiliser prices are subsidised.

“The government should also rein in on retailers who are charging exorbitant prices on top of these prices,” he said.

The development comes at a time when close to half of the Zimbabwean farmers are self-financing and accounts for the larger hectarage which will be utilised this agricultural season.

In Zimbabwe, the three main fertiliser types used are the NPK granular compounds, the NPK blends and top dressing (AN) and 70% of all fertilisers are imported (either as raw material or the finished product), thereby exposing the national market to price volatility and global shortages.

The rise in logistical costs by over 100% due to increased demand and a shortage of shipping vessels and fuel, has increased the landed fertiliser prices in Zimbabwe and other import-dependent countries.

The total annual demand for fertiliser in Zimbabwe is around 800,000 tonnes and over half of this is imported as nitrate-based products.

The country depends heavily on fertiliser imports (ammonium nitrate, urea, potash, and ammonia gas) from Russia and Belarus and the conflict has far-reaching consequences on availability and affordability.

The cost of fuel and agricultural inputs, in particular fertiliser, were already on the rise before February 2022 and the Ukraine crisis further drove prices up.

Household access to agricultural inputs remains limited as the 2022/23 main cropping season begins.

Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, impacts have been felt worldwide, including in Zimbabwe, through price spikes, supply chain disruptions and a general deterioration of macro-economic and living conditions, especially for the vulnerable sections of the society.


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