The International Fertilizer Development Centre's (IFDC) latest Covid-19 Fertilizer Watch says the overall impact on supply and distribution of restrictions in east and southern Africa is not significant.
But there is concern that limited demand in the coming season caused by uncertainty in export and domestic markets will create cash flow constraints in the on-farm sector.
There have been no reported fertilizer shortages, barring some minor problems with containerised supply, although now is not the region's major fertilizer-consuming season. There has been a small impact on demand in Uganda because of the shutdown of public transport.
Tanzania is contending with border closures imposed by its neighbours — most recently Zambia, with Kenya considering measures — because of concerns about truck drivers spreading the virus.
Ports still require isolation periods and restrictions on crew changes, but quarantine requirements at certain South African ports have been eased. Ports continue to operate on reduced shifts — one third operational on a 15-day cycle — and with modified working arrangements. Quayside bagging has been banned at Kenya's Mombasa, but this has improved efficiency.
There are some problems with container freight availability. On the roads, reduced copper freight continues to impact the viability of back freight out of copper-exporting ports such as Durban and Dar es Salaam. Kenya is undertaking driver testing prior to dispatch at Mombasa and mandatory testing at designated truck stops.
At border crossings, measures range from preventing entry of drivers — Rwanda, for example requires relay drivers to transport goods internally — to complete closures. Testing at crossings is increasing, but with the exact measures ranging depending on the country from where goods originate — from isolation at border post, to escorted mandatory isolation, to simply temperature testing.
In most countries, fertilizer associations and private-sector companies continue to work with government officials to ensure distribution efficiency.
By Mike Nash