President Edgar Lungu officially launched the 2016/1017 planting season on Friday afternoon. He called on farmers to vary their crop choice.
“I’m urging farmers across the country: Take advantage of the wider choice of crops now available to them under the Farmers’ Input Support Programme (FISP). While you re planting maize consider other options such as soybean, sorghum, cassava and cashew nuts.
President Lungu spoke in Chisamba, 35 kilometres south of Lusaka, at one of Zambeef’s largest commercial farms.
“The agriculture sector is a catalyst to all sectors in the country’s economy. That is why my government has an emphasis on the important role agriculture needs to play in building a Zambia we will all be proud of,” he stressed.
The acting minister of agriculture Dr Chitalu Chilufya, also attended the launch. So did senior government officials, Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Jervis Zimba, and Zambeef executives and farmers.
A few days ago the minister of agriculture, Dora Siliya, lamented that the FISP aimed at propelling small-scale farmers to commercial viability had largely failed. She said it was because the intended beneficiaries treated it as a cash transfer programme.
Farmers must adopt technology
On the other hand, some beneficiaries have criticised the FISP for not being responsive enough. They said planting inputs did not reach farmers in time for the planting season. Other sections of the agriculture sector have argued that the maize-centric focus was a huge weakness of the programme. The programme this year targeted 1.6 million small-scale farmers at a cost of ZMW400 million.
Zambeef joint chief executive officer, Francis Grogan, urged small-scale farmers to adopt modern technology. They produce over 95 percent of the nation’s staple crop maize. He said there was an over-dependence on rain-fed production.
“We must assist farmers and give them access to irrigation to guarantee excellent yield,” he said.
Zambeef has approximately 8 000 hectares of row cropping, farming mainly maize, soya beans and wheat.