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Harare Agriculture Minister Points Finger At Monkey In Agro-Sector Turmoil

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made has placed some of the blame for the problems in agriculture on a monkey he said electrocuted itself on a transformer at a main fertilizer plant, putting the electrical unit and much of the plant out of commission.

Made told parliament that the Sable Chemicals plant in Kwekwe could be off-line for as long as six months awaiting repairs to the transformer, according to a report on the New Zimbabwe web site. The transformer is one of two at the plant, it said.

A source familiar with Sable's operations said a vervet monkey obtained access to and damaged the transformer, which has been shipped to South Africa for repairs.

Made told parliamentarians that the monkey "sabotaged" government preparations for the oncoming planting season. "If it was not for that monkey, the situation was not going to be as bad," New Zimbabwe quoted Made as saying. Much of the country's fertilizer supply would now have to be imported, Made told parliament.

Sable is Zimbabwe's only domestic producer of ammonium nitrate, after maize seeds one of the most important inputs required to ensure healthy yields.

The government announced this week that it is importing 387,000 tonnes of fertilizer from China. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, meanwhile, has made US$6.15 million available to fertilizer manufacturers to import raw materials and spare parts.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Renson Gasela of the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that by the time the Chinese fertilizer arrives, the maize planting season could be over.

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