Alliance for Democracy and Development leader Charles Milupi says Zambia will record a poor harvest this season because the PF have failed farmers.
On Sunday, Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa said he could not conclude that the late delivery of farming inputs would result in a low yield because farmers were very resilient and could adapt to any kind of situation.
Responding to a question from ZNBC’s Sunday Interview host Grevazio Zulu, who asked if the country was expecting a bad harvest owing to late delivery of inputs, Shawa said he could not say so because farmers were very resilient.
“Let’s wait and see. You know, production of crops is a factor of not just inputs but rainfall, issues of making sure that we control the famous army worms, ensuring that farmers apply good agriculture practices so a combination of those factors will determine what we are going to harvest but let’s wait and see. We still have some months to go before we can say are we food secure or not but look, the farmers are resilient, they can always adapt to the situation,” said Shawa.
But in an interview yesterday, Milupi said farmers were not resilient to maladministration.
“Farmers are resilient to forces of nature; there is a drought or too much rain, or rain is late, farmers are normally resilient. But these things caused by maladministration, lack of interest, interest in stealing and making money for themselves, you cannot be resilient to that. If you have to grow a crop using fertiliser and you have no fertiliser, how can you be resilient?” Milupi asked.
Milupi listed some of the problems with this farming season.
“The issues with the farming season this year is number one, the previous farming season the farmers did harvest a substantial amount of crop but this government of Mr Lungu decided that the farmers didn’t deserve the money which they are supposed to get for their crops, so they slashed the price from K85 the previous year to K60. Not only that, in the actual farming areas, the people who went to buy the crops were paying K35 saying that because of transport costs they had to add a mark up, go to Chikankata, that’s how much they were paying. In Kaoma, they were paying K40,” he said.
“As late as last week, people were still paying K60. Milling companies were camped there and just paying K60 so their income for the farmers was tremendously slashed making it impossible for them to be able to save for commercial fertiliser. There was no money. The second reason is that those that offered their crops to FRA for the K60, up to now they have not been paid. So if they have not been paid for the money that you worked for, where else do you get the money to buy the commercial fertiliser? The other reason is commercial fertiliser is very expensive. In the area where I farm, it is about K300, K276 if you are lucky. So you removed the income from the farmers, the FISP fertiliser is not delivered on time…and you are still coming round and saying the farmers are resilient?”
he said the harvest would be poor.
“I wonder what sort of PS this is because we expect the civil servants to be the technocrats that understand farming, that understand what needs to be done. So for them to say, ‘no we can do anything we want to farmers but they will always come up with something’ is absolutely ridiculous in the extreme. We expect technical people to behave as such. The truth of the matter is that this government of Edgar Lungu has no clue about what agriculture is all about. The harvest will be poor and it means there will be hunger in the country. There will be starvation and it means this government may have to import grain. You cannot be moving from a bumper harvest to a deficit the following year,” Milupi said.
“I really feel sorry for farmers because most of them are those who have worked, they get their pension and go and put it in the soil and this government just ruins that completely. So you will have many people going bankrupt as a result of what this government has done. It is very unfortunate.”
And Milupi said he had nothing against the e-voucher system noting that the PF’s focus was not on making it work, but on making money out of it.
“Any system that you want to put in place, as long as you put your mind to it, you clear all the obstacles, it will work. But if you put in systems and your main aim is ‘how do we steal? How do we make money out of this system?’ that is when the system won’t work. Quite clearly, anything that this government comes up with, there are so many people that want to make money out of the system. The concentration is on ‘how do we make private money out of this?’ it is not on ‘how do we make the system work?’ For the first time in the history of this country, we are in January and we are still talking about delivery of inputs. What sort of agriculture are we talking about?” asked Milupi.
“By second week of march, the rains are gone. We have two and a half months remaining, some people have not ploughed their fields they have not done everything and you are saying they are resilient they will somehow, the rains will continue to fall on their crops? That PS ought to be ashamed of himself for saying that.”