AN acute shortage of Compound C — the only blend fertiliser recommended for tobacco production — is being exploited by some unscrupulous dealers to rip-off unsuspecting gold-leaf growers through repackaged, under weighed and overpriced fong-kong products.
The state media reports that the illegal practice, where some dealers are re-packaging either Urea or Compound D fertilisers in original Compound C bags, was rampant in Mutare and Rusape — which attract voluminous buyers as they are traditionally the tobacco growing hubs in Manicaland.
Tobacco Association of Zimbabwe (TAZ) president, Mr David Guy Mutasa said the fong-kong products were under weighed and overpriced with a 30kg, disguised as 50kg, selling at $36.
“They are ripping off farmers by selling the wrong consignments wrapped in proper Compound C bags at exorbitant prices. These dealers are selling fake Compound C to tobacco growers with a 30kg bag, disguised as a 50kg, going for $36.
Urea fertiliser is not ideal for tobacco, it damages the quality of tobacco because it has too much nitrogen. Due to the current shortages, many farmers are falling prey to these unscrupulous dealers and end up using the wrong fertiliser for their crop. I have come across a number of unscrupulous dealers selling these fake products in Rusape and Mutare,” said Mr Mutasa.
Mr Vekina Neru of Kelvin Farm in Headlands said he bought Compound C from the street only to discover that he had been duped.
“It was all fake. I bought two bags of what was sold as Compound C, only to discover that one bag had Compound D and the other had Urea. I bought it in Rusape after being referred there by several other farmers, which means those referees were also duped. As farmers we should stop buying fertilisers from dubious dealers because they are selfish and insincere,” said Mr Neru.
Tobacco Industry Marketing Board (TIMB) spokesperson Mr Isheunesu Moyo warned growers that the use of fertiliser blends, other than those recommended by the Tobacco Research Board (TRB), compromise both quality and yields.
Mr Moyo said farmers should only buy fertiliser blends from recommended dealers.
“Blends that are not recommended by the Tobacco Research Board compromise both quality and yields. We recommend that farmers buy fertilisers blends that have been recommended by the Tobacco Research Board from recommended companies,” said Mr Moyo.
The fertiliser shortages are not only affected tobacco, but other crops, especially maize.
Foreign currency shortages blighting the country have been blamed for fertiliser companies’ inability to meet demand.
The shortages are posing a serious threat to the cereal crop production — amid revelations fertiliser firms’ capacity to meet demand under Command Agriculture and other private farmers due to lack of forex to import raw materials.
The piece-meal distribution of fertiliser under Command Agriculture has courted the wrath of farmers who argue that the noble programme was on verge of unintended consequences.
Fertiliser firms recently told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development that they could not meet demand due to lack of foreign currency to import raw materials.
Some companies have raw materials and fertiliser stocks in their warehouses, but cannot release them before paying their external suppliers as the contrabands are held under collateral management agreement.
For instance, the Zimbabwe Fertiliser Company (ZFC) has delivered only 20 000 tonnes of Compound D, which is half of its target under Command Agriculture while Omnia has supplied 5 000 tonnes out of target of 6 800t.
ZFC managing director, Dr Richard Dafana, said the company needed $6 million to fulfil its target under Command Agriculture.
“We are now producing from hand-to-mouth. Fertiliser companies should get the lion’s share on foreign currency especially now when we have an important cropping programme. It is best that priority is given to save the crop so that we do not end up importing food.
“We have high rainfall this year, which is favourable for crop production. We are afraid we may continue to produce the compound fertilisers when the nutrients will no longer be required by the crops,” said Dr Dafana.
Omia finance director, Mrs Anne Munetsi also cited the same challenge.
“We have been experiencing challenges to access foreign currency to buy raw materials. We also blend fertilisers, but production is being hampered by shortage of raw materials as a result of foreign currency challenges. Our bins, which are supposed to have raw materials, are empty now and normally during this time of the year they would be full,” said Mrs Munetsi. – State Media