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Fertiliser company on the cards

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Thom Khanje

Some Malawian businesspeople have secured a loan from local and international commercial banks worth $2 million (approximately K1.6 billion at the current exchange rate) for setting up a fertiliser-manufacturing company called Shire Fertilisers.

According to Shire Fertilisers Business Development Manager Noel Nyirenda, the firm is waiting for an international consultant to map the setting up of the factory.

He added that the plant would take one year and that it would have the capacity to produce 100, 000 metric tonnes (mt) of fertiliser per year, creating 300 direct jobs at its beginning.

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“This will have a huge impact on prices of fertiliser in the country because fertiliser is not that expensive but sea and rail transport is what makes it expensive,” he said, adding that he could not give more details of the loan facility presently.

The development comes at a time the country is looking for strategies to ease pressure on the agriculture sector emanating from high prices of fertiliser which have increased by between 50 and 70 percent within a year.

The rise in prices of fertiliser posed a threat to government’s flagship Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) as, in a move to maintain the number of beneficiaries, the government has increased the price of fertiliser to K7,500 per 50 kilogramme (kg) bag from K4,495 last year.

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Currently, a 50kg bag of NPK and Urea fertilisers is being sold at K38,000, which is 73 percent higher than last year and International Food Policy Research Institute has warned that the prices are likely to continue skyrocketing.

A recent report from agricultural research think tank Mwapata Institute on the price of fertiliser indicated that, in the long-term, the country needed to have its own fertiliser manufacturing plants if it were to control prices, which are largely influenced by external pressure.

If the company materialises, it can feed up to 40 percent to government’s AIP as about 270mt of fertiliser were sold to farmers during last farming season.

Farmers Union of Malawi President Frighton Njolomole welcomed the development, saying the government should extend a hand to such firms so that the process is expedited and Malawians start enjoying the fruits.

“While we are happy and we emphasise that these are the developments we need, we want to urge the government that through Parliament, it should pass the Fertilizer Bill so that there is enough regulation to promote quality,” Njolomole said.

National Planning Commission Communications Specialist Thom Khanje said the project was in line with Malawi2063 agenda, a blueprint for Malawi to become a wealthy and self-reliant nation.

Khanje said setting up the plant guarantees the company of high returns since the demand for fertilizer is there in the country but they can also export it for foreign exchange generation.

“There is a need for the private sector to take its part rather than waiting for government to implement all development projects,” he said.

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