Zambia National Farmers Union president Jervis Zimba says farmers have no appetite to participate in this year’s farming season because the PF government has destroyed the agriculture sector.

And Zimba says the farming sector is in distress because Agriculture Minister Dora Siliya makes decisions without consulting stakeholders.

In an interview with News Diggers! yesterday, Zimba said that agribusinesses had been affected due to farmers zero-eagerness to participate in the marketing season.

“The current happenings in the agricultural sector are at the lowest moment. Traders have not participated in marketing this season, they participated on a very low note. Their eagerness to participate this year was zero because of what transpired last year when they made huge losses because of the export ban which was put in place. The appetite for farmers to grow any crop this year is at the lowest, it’s not there. And what we are now seeing is that some seed companies are getting affected, they are at the lowest in terms of sells. Fertilizer companies are also low on their sells and are equally getting affected and also, most of the commercial farms are now under stress from the bank,” he observed.

“We need a very serious Marshall Plan like it happened under World War One and Two where they put a Marshall Plan. If no Marshall Plan is put in place, it will be extremely difficult for the agricultural sector to pick up. At the moment, yes the season is already on but FRA is still owing about K600 million to farmers and E-Voucher has been opened up but the deposits are minimal. So we are looking at a lot of issues and our prediction is that we are headed for imports after 18 months as a country. If an urgent Marshall Plan is not put in place, we are headed for imports after 18 months.”

He said farmers had been placed under duress because they had obtained loans from banks which they could not repay.

“The recovery of loans by the banks is very low such that 30 percent of the farmers are under threat from the banks. Although 15 per cent of the 30 per cent loans have been rescheduled, it does not help matters. Farmer Input Support Programme alone can not feed the nation as that is only food security for rural farmers. The agriculture minister is on public record saying that farmers should stop growing maize, which is confusing to farmers. Traders are under stress, farmers are under stress, agribusinesses are under stress, banks are under stress, only millers are happy because they never loose,” Zimba observed.

“The union believes someone wrongly advised government. Look at the systematic destruction on agriculture in a short period yet our neighbouring countries have offered a good prices to the farmers? When farmers make loses due to government policies it becomes a hopeless situation for farmers to grow anything. Look at the cotton uptake this season, it is poor.”

He further expressed disappointment with the ministry of agriculture’s failure to engage his union on issues that concerned farmers.

“We tried our best to advice the Ministry of Agriculture on what steps and measures to take, but I think they had not heeded. Currently, we are in the wait-and-see situation. We are also under serious stress, regarding the army worms. So when you look at the farmers faces, they are all miserable as they don’t know what to do next. In the absence of this serious Marshall Plan to look at how to survive agriculture, I’m afraid, we might be the next importer. However, its up to the minister herself to try and speak to the doers (unions),” Zimba said.

He complained that Siliya made decisions without consult farmers.

“You see, where we get confused as an institution of farmers, the minister doesn’t consult us, but then, who she consults to make all these decisions, we don’t know? This is where we have some problems because even in a home if there are issues to sort out, you consult your wife and family because you stay with them. And that’s why when we the doers see something happening, we try to advice the minister in writing,” said Zimba.

“It’s a warning to the country as things are now. The current situation does not look good. All agribusinesses will suffer equally. So in the absence of a Marshall Plan, try and seat down with the doers. I’m afraid the agriculture sector is not doing well,” he said.