Controversial activist Gregory Chifire has said the Ministry of Agriculture must take advantage of President Hakainde Hichilema’s zero tolerance to corruption to end cartels in the fertilizer procurement chain.

The government through the Ministry of Agriculture is this year expecting to contract firms to supply 307,000 metric tonnes of fertilizer that will benefit 1,024,000 farmers across the country under the Agriculture Support Programme.

Mr. Chifire, the Executive Director of Southern Africa Network Against Corruption (SANAC), said the Ministry of Agriculture should ensure that tenders of supplying fertilizer are awarded to deserving suppliers.

He said the fertilizer procurement process was in the recent past tied with suspected corruption and bribery that led to suppliers supplying the commodity at exorbitant prices.

Mr. Chifire observed that Zambia was made to lose a lot of money that could have been used in other needy areas as cartels flourished in the fertilizer supply chain.

He said SANAC has been following with keen interest the fertilizer procurement process for the 2022/2023 farming season by the Ministry of Agriculture that attracted interest from a good number of fertilizer suppliers.

Mr. Chifire said SANAC was pleased with the professionalism and transparency that the Ministry of Agriculture has so far exhibited.

He said the Ministry of Agriculture should continue exhibiting transparency even in the selection of successful bidders.

“The Southern Africa Network Against Corruption (SANAC) has been following with keen interest the fertilizer procurement process for the 2022/23 farming season by the Ministry of Agriculture that attracted interest from a good number of fertilizer suppliers. We are pleased with the professionalism and transparency that the Ministry has so far exhibited. Now that bids have been opened and the bidders with their respective prices are known, we are calling on the Ministry to continue exhibiting transparency even in the selection of successful bidders,” Mr. Chifire said.

“Fertilizer procurement process was in the recent past laced with suspected corruption and bribery that led to suppliers supplying the commodity at exorbitant prices. This situation must be arrested as the Country was made to lose a lot of money that could have been used in other needy areas,” he said.

Mr. Chifire added:”The Ministry of Agriculture must take advantage of the President’s zero tolerance to corruption to break the fertilizer cartels in the sector by awarding tenders to deserving suppliers.”

The Ministry of Agriculture last January opened the bids for local agro-dealers to supply fertilizer for the 2022/2023 farming season.

The development followed President Hichilema’s announcement while on the Copperbelt a month earlier that Zambian suppliers will be prioritised in the tendering process.

According to the ministry, from the target 307,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser, 47,000 of Compound D will be supplied by the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia to Central, Copperbelt and Lusaka Provinces.

The successful bidders will supply Compound D’ to the remaining seven provinces and urea to all the provinces.