Agriculture minister Dora Silya says farmers who experienced problems with swiping their e-voucher cards last year will not be compensated this season because they still found other means of collecting farming inputs from Agro dealers.

Responding to a question from Chikakanta member of parliament Kabwe Mwiinga, Siliya told the House yesterday that farmers whose e-voucher cards were not activated would still pay their contribution this season because they somehow managed to get inputs last season.

“Mr Speaker, I did mention by the end of the 2016/17 farming season that the Ministry of Agriculture was carrying over a debt of K275 000 000 from inactivated e-voucher cards and these were where the farmers had paid their K400 but the government did not meet it’s contribution and we do know that for these cards, inputs were supplied by the Agro-dealers as the original questioner in this question stated and this is why we felt that Agro dealers were owing the farmers. So it is that there is a debt to Agro dealers and there is a debt to suppliers because most of the farmers actually got the inputs and this is why we have committed to liquidate this debt from K275 million which is now standing at K96 million and we hope that with the disbursement for this agricultural season, we can properly liquidate this debt,” Siliya said.

“And Mr Speaker, the situation is that even though the cards were not activated because of governments’ lack of disbursement on those particular cards, the farmers actually got inputs from the Agro dealers. So when this debt is liquidated, the Agro dealers and the supplier to the Agro dealers are entitled to that money. Meaning that if the farmers are going to participate in this year’s farming season and have their cards re-activated, they will have to pay their next contribution of K400 because otherwise, they will have no access to new inputs since the K400 they paid last year they got the inputs. So it’s actually the Agro dealers and the suppliers who are owed.”

Meanwhile, Siliya said input suppliers and agro-dealers had already been selected in readiness for the 2017/18 farming season.

“Last week, the treasury released K8 million in an effort to liquidate the approximately K275 million carry-over debt from inactivation of e-voucher cards, and at the moment, that debt stands at K96 million. the ministry has also planned to start implementing the 2017/18 farming season early in order to provide a long transaction window in which to deal with the unforeseen challenges. You may recall that in the 2016/17 farming season, banks begun to distribute the cards in late November 2016 and January 2017 but for the coming season, it is hoped that by 1st October 2017, those farmers who will be ready can be begin to deposit farmers contributions into the banks. As of today, input suppliers and Agro-dealers have been selected in readiness for this important exercise,” said Siliya.