Lungu, planting; maize; exports; millers; pests

Zambian treasury releases funds to avert messy planting season

The Zambian treasury has released funds in what might be a crucial step to avert problems like the payment of farmers and transporters, and the initial roll-out of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), under the full electronic voucher (e-voucher) payment system.

The payment follows a directive by President Edgar Lungu to line ministries to remove any bottlenecks to ensure another bumper harvest for the country.

His directive comes amidst complaints of delayed payments by farmers, while more than 80 000 tons of maize remain uncollected at various Food Reserve Agency (FRA) satellite depots.

“We have released K400 million. A further K1.4 billion will be disbursed soon to ensure farmer inputs distribution under e-voucher has minimal challenges. FRA has also been given adequate funding to cover the costs of their targeted procurement of 500 000 tons of maize,” said Minister of Finance, Felix Mutati.

Though the distribution of farmer inputs for the 2017/2018 season started last week, there has been little activity, because cards have not been activated.

“We are working with banks, agro dealers and other stakeholders to ensure these cards are activated and farmers start getting inputs,” Mutati said. Farmers, however, are very anxious, since it has already started raining in some parts of the country.

Meanwhile, FRA Executive Director Chola Kafwabulula said K200 million is urgently needed to pay transporters who he said are refusing to move maize from far-flung depots.

“The risk is too high because we have 80 000 tons of maize still uncollected in the field, and we fear this may be soaked by rain,” he said.

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