Fresh start for Serbian fertilizer

BELGRADE (Reuters) – Serbia’s biggest fertilizer plant will resume production, which has been interrupted for six months, after the government decided to help fund its operations, the Tanjug news agency reported yesterday. The Azotara plant in Pancevo halted production in May because it could not afford to pay for its supply of natural gas. The Serbian government will guarantee 7 to 10 million dinars ($105,300-$150,400) each month to the plant to help it produce some of the estimated 250,000 tons of fertilizer needed for the 2002 spring sowing, the report quoted Privatization Minister Aleksandar Vlahovic as saying. Azotara’s 35-million-German-mark ($15.89 million) debt for gas consumed, but not paid for, has been rescheduled, the minister said. He added that a new, reduced price of $122 per 1,000 cubic meters, from $132, had been set for Azotara to help it restart and keep its production uninterrupted. The accumulated debt by five of Serbia’s fertilizer plants for consumed but unpaid gas exceeds one billion Yugoslav dinars. Ready-to-wear manufacturer and retailer Vakko Tekstil was the biggest gainer, rising 21.15 percent.