Fertilizer Quality Assessment in Markets of Zambia

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) has conducted fertilizer quality assessments in Eastern and Southern Africa. IFDC conducted the assessment in Zambia because of the country’s increasing trend in fertilizer consumption, large land areas with the potential for agricultural production, and the government’s current programs to reduce poverty and food insecurity. In addition, Zambia does not have a National Fertilizer Quality Regulatory System; findings of this study can be used as a baseline to build a National Fertilizer Quality Regulatory System that can be harmonized with a regional regulatory system for member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The IFDC fertilizer quality assessment team first trained a group of 23 officials from government agencies dealing with agricultural research, standardization, and environmental preservation. Then, a random approach was used to select a sample of fertilizer dealers and collect fertilizer samples for chemical analyses. Data on fertilizer markets, dealers, physical properties of the products, and storage conditions were also collected from the sample of dealers. After conducting chemical analyses on fertilizer samples in the labs, the estimated nutrient content and cadmium (Cd) content of the fertilizers were incorporated into the dataset for analysis. Out-of-compliance (OoC) shortages of macro and secondary nutrients in the most traded fertilizers (urea, 10- 20-10+6S [Compound D], calcium ammonium nitrate [CAN] 27%, 11-22-16+4S, and ammonium nitrate) occurred with high frequencies and severities. These shortages likely will cause nutrient deficiencies in crops. Considering that there was no evidence of adulteration in the samples from these fertilizers and that the degradation of physical properties was minimal, the expected origin of the nutrient shortages OoC is in the manufacturing of the products. The combined analysis of granulated compound and straight fertilizers of intermediate to low market trade also showed frequent and severe P2O5 and K2O OoC shortages. Again, there was no evidence of adulteration and only mild degradation of physical properties, which suggest that the nutrient shortages originated in the manufacture of the products. The combined analysis of the 23 bulk blends identified in Zambia showed frequent but low severity of total N shortages OoC, together with no shortages of P2O5 OoC, and highly frequent and severe K2O shortages OoC. It is apparent that segregation attributed to the use of crystalline, instead of granular, KCl explains the K2O shortages in the bulk blends. Nutrient shortages in Zambian bulk blends are mild compared with nutrient shortages in bulk blends manufactured in other regions of Africa. All samples analyzed for Cd showed values well under the international tolerance limit but it is recommended to continue monitoring Cd content in fertilizers and the origin of the phosphate rock used in fertilizer manufacture. Nineteen percent of the 50-kilogram (kg) bags weighed had OoC shortages of at least -0.5 kg, and 10% of the bags had weight shortages of at least 1 kg. Additional investigation is needed to identify where and how this fraud is committed. Inspections conducted before imported fertilizers enter Zambia should become stricter. It is important to establish a system that ensures pre-export verification of conformity (PVoC). This should be followed by confirmatory inspections at the points of entrance to Zambia. As Zambia’s fertilizer consumption grows, a regulatory framework specific to fertilizers needs to be developed. An agency within the Ministry of Agriculture should be provided with the funds, trained personnel, laboratories, and other physical resources to conduct quality inspections along the value chain, analysis of samples, and administration of the regulation’s legal aspects. Interaction and good relations between the government and private sector are essential to establish an environment of good fertilizer quality in the markets. Implementation of the regulatory system by government officials should go together with self-regulation by the private sector.