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LOCAL PLANT NUTRIENT OUTLOOKLeonard Van De LuytgaardenOur introduction to fertilizer registration begun way back in the 70’s when we were keen to import new plant nutrients but had to have it registered with the Department of Agriculture Act 36 of 1947. The products we were intending registering were far more advanced than the current products available on the market in South Africa at the time. Their nutrient content was not of the usual 2:3:2 or 5:1:5 makeup, but rather an 18-3-15 or a 20:20:20.
The registrar was not happy registering such analysis as these nutrient contents would confuse the end user who was only aware of the likes of a 2:3:2 or 5:1:5 type product. It took us a few years to convince the registrar that these types of analysis were indeed not confusing and eventually after much persuasion and frustration we were allowed to register them.
Through the years it became easier to register and would normally take 6 weeks from submission to receiving a registration certificate. The powers to be understood that time was money, and everything ran smoothly from then on, with us registering several ground-breaking technologies over the years. CURRENT TRENDSAs time went on and we entered the new millennium the usual 6 weeks for registration began to increase to such an extent that currently if all your paperwork is in order you will be lucky to have a product registered within 8 months.
This is not only frustrating but financially draining as you are not permitted to sell your product to the public without a registration number. IMPORTINGImporting also had its challenges over the years. A product we had imported and marketed in South Africa for many years got flagged one year and was stopped by port health. We were asked for the import permit and health certificate from the country of origin. This was news to us as we had never had to produce these documents in the past. After begging the state vet to release the container through ignorance of the new regulation on our part they finally allowed this last shipment through. In order for us to get the correct documents our international supplier had to meet certain criteria from the SA health department.
After many weeks and faxes between the various governing bodies we were given the criteria that the product had to meet, and we were then allowed to import it again once all these criteria were met. SHIPPINGOf late our biggest nightmare must be shipping. Since Covid-19 has hit the world, shipping has slowed down while demand has increased. Ports across the world are short staffed and cannot keep up with the in flow or out flow of goods. Here in South Africa, we have our own challenges with strikes at Transnet, strikes by truck drivers, Covid-19 lockdowns and most recently IT sabotage. We have reached a point where certain shipping lines would rather bypass South African ports than stop at them. The delays have been costing the shipping lines far too much money with ships standing idle at sea for up to a week sometimes.
With the demand for shipping the cost has reached an all-time high. We had a 41% increase on freight charges alone within 3 months recently with no guarantees that it will come down in the future. With most of our nutrient raw materials being imported into South Africa this does not paint a pretty picture for the future. Unfortunately, prices will go up and the consumer will be forced to pay more.
On the brighter side these increases are forcing South Africans to look at manufacturing our own products. There have been some amazing advancements in fertilizer production. We now have our own manufacturers of humic and fulvic acids as an example. With the abundance of raw materials found in our country and our large-scale farming market there are possibilities of nutrients being extracted from plant material. We have an abundance of seaweed which can be used as a fertilizer base material as well. Remember power is a critical input and with the power utility being unreliable, you will require back-up power supply. Similarly, water supply and water storage are critical, both consume vast amounts of power – water pumping, purification and processing are power hungry inputs, fortunately gravity and wind power can offset some of the costs. South Africans are a versatile bunch with a lot of expertise and the future in plant nutrients looks very exciting.
By putting our heads together, we can overcome these challenges.