Zimbabwean farmers who managed to get a maize crop in the ground this spring despite shortages of seed and fertilizer now face shortages of ammonium nitrate top-dressing - though it can be purchased in the informal marketplace at premium prices.
The latest shortages have raised fears of low yields in the current season.
Ammonium nitrate manufacturers Sable Chemicals and the Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company, both subsidiaries of state enterprise Chemplex Corporation Limited, said that production of fertilizer has been hampered by their limited operating capital.
Chemplex Corporation, owned by the state-controlled Zimbabwe Industrial Development Corporation, said that production has also been hurt by high prices for electric power which have almost crippled production at Sable Chemicals.
Fertilizer company executives declined to comment.
Sources said informal traders are doing a brisk business charging up to US$50 for a 50-kilogram bag of ammonium nitrate. The recommended retail price is US$30.
Parliamentary Agriculture Committee Chairman Moses Jiri said the shortage of ammonium nitrate will have a negative impact on this year's crops.
Commercial Farmers Union President Charles Taffs said the government should provide financial assistance to ammonium nitrate producers.
“The problem lies with lack of capital to boost the production of this crucial agricultural input and lack of planning by the government,” Taffs said.