… Uralchem Says it Only Donated 20,000 MT.
BY PIJ INVESTIGATIONS
At least part of the 30 000-metric tons of fertiliser which was donated to Malawi by Russia is reportedly being stolen from Beira and sold to Zambian dealers, the Platform for Investigative journalism (PIJ) has established.
Stakeholders have, however, dismissed fears that the bigger chunk of the commodity might not make it into Malawi.
A month-long investigation which commenced in December has established that Malawi is likely to receive a few tons while the rest will be lost to looters who are being aided by government agents mandated to ferry the fertiliser to Malawi.
The donated fertiliser was earmarked for the Tonse Alliance’s ambitious and scandal-ridden Affordable Input Programme (AIP) meant to benefit close to 2.5 million people and valued at over MK 140 billion.
Malawi is implementing AIP to help less privileged farmers access the commodity at a heavy subsidy.
The market price for fertiliser ranges between MK65 000 to MK90 000 but with the help of the programme farmers will access the commodity at MK15 000.
On Monday, Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale told the local media that 20,000 metric tons of fertilizer donated by the Russian government to Malawi has arrived in the country.
Said Kawale: “I can confirm that we have started receiving the Russian fertilizer has started arriving in Blantyre.”
When contacted through WhatsApp communication if the Government was aware of the theft of fertiliser, Kawale only read the message and did not respond.
Investigations revealed that the Malawi government received the fertiliser in October last year and the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM), a government-owned company, contracted Manica.
Head of special PR Projects for Uralchem-Uralkali Group Emin Bayramov dismissed reports that the 30 000-metric tons of fertiliser, part of which was stolen, all came from them.
Reacting to the story through a Twitter message response, Bayramov said the fact of the matter is that the Uralchem-Uralkali group donated 20,000 tonnes of NPK (nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium) fertiliser to Malawi.
Uralchem, one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of nitrogen, potash and complex fertilisers is of the view that the facts and figures on the news about the humanitarian shipment of fertiliser by Uralchem are not adding up.
He also said the Uralchem donated fertilizer did not arrive in October last year.
“In fact, the fertiliser for Malawi was been fully offloaded in the Port of Beira (Mozambique) in late January, early February,” he said.
“Out of 20,000MT of NPK fertiliser donated by Uralchem only about 360MT in 12 trucks has been offloaded in Malawi,” added Bayramov who also said the logistical arrangements for the fertiliser are being handled by WFP through Manica in Beira.
But when told that even Malawi’s Agriculture Minister confirmed the tonnage of fertilizer as being over 20,000 metric tonnes, he said he believes there may have been a mix-up of the deliveries via Beira.
Between late January and early this month, the MV GREENWICH ship brought to Beira, about 20,000MT of NPK fertilizer donated by Uralchem.
“Earlier, MV SAI FORTUNE also arrived at Beira carrying about 24,000 MT of Urea fertiliser of which 15,000MT was destined for Malawi and the rest was destined for Zambia,” he said, but had no idea of the origin of the delivery.
Manica then subcontracted Ceva Malawi, CCIS Mozambique (a logistics company specialised in clearing cargo in Beira, warehousing, and packaging) and a Transport broker, Tanker Freight Company, which belongs to Riaz PATEL.
However, since the arrival of 30 000 tons in October last year, our sources say only, 9000 tons have been ferried to Malawi scuttling the AIP process as millions of farmers have been left stranded at a time they needed fertiliser.
While conceding that indeed there has been theft of fertiliser in Mozambique, Patel said he has managed to bring into the country 18,000 tons and will bring the remainder by the end of this
In reaction, Ceva Malawi’s parent company CEVA Logistics insisted that the company is committed to delivering our logistics solutions under the terms and conditions agreed upon with their customers.
Asked what PIJ established, that Ceva Malawi is involved in the mess of the delivery of the commodity from Beira to Malawi, where thousands of tons have been stolen, CEVA Logistics Head of Communication Lejla Omerbasic Dukic said in response through email:
“We are working closely with our customer, the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi, to resolve the situation in a manner agreeable to all parties. The product is currently under our secure control and being managed per the terms and conditions of the agreement.”
PIJ investigations further established that Malawi government made a 60% advance payment to Patel in October upon the signing of the contract, but since then there have been delays in the delivery of fertiliser.
Sources said Patel is now pushing government through Dr Moses Khombe so that he can be paid the remaining 40% to be able to finish ferrying 21000 tons.
In an interview with PIJ, Khombe laughed off the suggestion that he is involved in this deal. He said he has not brokered any fertiliser deal that can necessitate his involvement in issues of payment.
“To begin with, this is a Government to Government deal, how is it possible that I can be involved in issues of payment?” wondered Khombe.
He also said those that are making these allegations ought to have made enough research because there is no way Patel can go directly to Government to seek his payment when he was contracted by Manica. He said his payment has to come through Manica in any case.
In December, Patel told the Malawi government that a truck with empty sacks from Kanengo was impounded in Mozambique after government failed to pay duty on the empty bags en route to Beira.
The driver of the impounded truck in Mozambique who only introduced himself to PIJ as Duncane said through a WhatsApp call that he is still stuck in Mozambique as a decision is yet to be made on how to resolve the issue.
Insiders told PIJ that government and Patel had not agreed on who was to pay duty for the empty bags, hence the truck was impounded.
“We are not sure if the Mozambican authorities released the truck because up to now it has not arrived in Beira,” the source opined to PIJ.
“Patel subcontracted some transporters, who are also saying they have not been paid anything since they commenced ferrying fertiliser to Malawi.
One of the transporters who spoke to PIJ on condition of anonymity said he is owed over MK40 million by Patel, and he has decided to withdraw from the contract until he is paid.
The close source also told PIJ that another transporter loaded in Beira and offloaded to an unknown destination in Tete, saying he will only release the fertiliser once he is paid.
A source in Beira said, “a Mozambican registered truck (registration number AHX 460) (name of driver withheld) loaded 600 bags of UREA on December 28, 2022, and has not yet reached its destination in Malawi as of February 3.”
“It is clear that subcontracted truck owners are now withholding fertiliser until they are paid. This truck must be somewhere in Mozambique,” the source said.
The missing truck comes on the backdrop of reports that four other trucks went missing loaded with fertilisers.
“Four trucks with the following Mozambique horse registration numbers AJC 373, AAD 662 MC, AAG 420 MC and AFJ 386 MC went missing and reports suggest that two trucks went to Angonia Province and two remained here in Beira where they offloaded the fertilizer,” said the source.
“Some people got the wind of it, leading to the arrest of one person linked to Patel, but the trucks and fertiliser have not been recovered.”
“We are very much aware that these disgruntled transporters want to sell Malawi fertiliser to the Zambian dealers so that they can recover their money. We have reports that plans are afoot to sell at least 3000 tons to Zambian dealers,” the source said.
Patel could not discuss issues of payment or lack of it with the other transporters he has engaged. He also said Government only made an advance payment of 58.8 per cent, which was used to transport part of the consignment and is waiting for the remainder to transport the rest.
Patel also said he single-handedly managed to catch the four trucks that had stolen the fertiliser and the trucks are now being detained by the Mozambican authority in Beira.
“This operation is also being undertaken with insurance. I have just received papers, as I am speaking to you right now, I have them in my hands, confirming billions of money from an insurance company in Mozambique in connection to this deal,” he said.
Russian mineral and potash fertiliser manufacturer Uralchem has committed to donating 20 000 metric tonnes (MT) of NPK fertiliser to Malawi. The company is providing fertilisers to African countries for free as part of its humanitarian mission and will in total supply 260 000MT fertiliser through currently blocked European ports.