Michael Magoronga, Business Correspondent
REDCLIFF-BASED chemical producer, ZimChem Refineries has recorded a steady improvement in production despite being dogged by a number of challenges, chief among them raw materials shortage.
In an interview on Monday, ZimChem managing director Mr Tendai Shoko said despite his company being forced to close its benzol plant recently, its tar plant has been doing well after engaging more suppliers for crude tar.
“We have been doing well despite the shortage of raw material.
“We have not been getting enough raw material from our traditional suppliers and we had to engage new partners and this has had a positive knock-on effect though production has improved marginally.
“By end of 2019, we had recorded a steady increase from about 35 percent to 43 percent,” he said.
Mr Shoko said more strategies meant to further stimulate productivity by the company were in the pipeline.
“We have made some strides; we are in the process of preparing some supply agreements with suppliers that I cannot mention right now as the deals are still under negotiation.
“We are trying to create a win-win situation where our suppliers give us the crude tar and we make some improvements on the product,” he said.
Situated within the premises of the country’s largest steel manufacturing company, Zisco, the chemical producer got coke from the steel firm which it would transform into a wide range of products for use in the road construction and timer industries.
The operational challenges at Hwange Colliery Company Limited have also resulted in ZimChem struggling to get the much-needed two major raw materials, crude tar and benzol.
However, the coming on board of Hwange Coal and Gasification Company has breathed a new lease of life into ZimChem.
The firm processes crude tar and benzol into a range of chemical products that are used for road works and timber protection, among others.
Recently, the company in partnership with University of Zimbabwe (UZ) discovered methods of developing fuels from benzol, but the shortage of the raw material in the market remains a major stumbling block.
“We have discovered formulas of developing fuels from benzol in conjunction with UZ.
“We can produce fuel additives using benzol but given our current production, we can only produce insignificant amounts of fuel like a tanker per month,” he said.
ZimChem produces 1 000 tonnes of tar prime per month and from that figure, four percent would be fuel.
With enough resources, the chemical manufacturing company has a lot of opportunities and can play a crucial role in turning around the fortunes of the local industry.
When operating at full throttle, ZimChem has potential to employ 800 while also producing cyanide for the gold industry, ammonia sulphate for water purification, ammonia nitrate for fertiliser production.
He bemoaned the exportation of raw materials by some local suppliers at the expense of the local market.
“If only we could be given the resources that are currently being exported without value addition, as ZimChem, we can achieve three times what is being earned from exporting those resources.
“We have the capacity to meet local demand for the tar prime required for the rehabilitation of the roads in the country,” said Mr Shoko.