Zambia has run out of urea fertiliser, sparking concerns of a rise in the price of the commodity.
“The demand for urea, which is used as a top dressing fertiliser, has grown, thereby creating a shortage,” agricultural minister Dora Siliya told parliament.
Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa urged private agro dealers to import more urea to meet the increasing demand.
Shawa said the shortage was exacerbated by the fact that state-owned Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) wasn’t in a position to produce ammonia nitrate. It is used as an alternative to urea. This, he said, was due to a lack of funds.
In previous seasons, government imported urea from Saudi Arabia and South Africa. In 2013/2014, Zambia imported 50 000 tons of urea from Saudi Arabia. Zambia’s fertiliser consumption is estimated at 500 000 tons.
The commodity shortage raised concerns that private agro dealers will hike prices. A check in some outlets in Lusaka showed the price of urea was going at more than K350 per 50kg bag.
Industry analysts say the increase in fertiliser prices will make maize production unprofitable for farmers. They argue that the increases pushed up input costs.
“This leaves most of us vulnerable to increased prices, adding more costs to our inputs,” said Josias Munga, a farmer from Lusaka West.
Scores of other farmers also expressed concern, especially about pricing maize in the next marketing season.