The Zambia Nation Farmers Union (ZNFU) has revealed that only 57.5 per cent of farmers have managed to redeem their farming inputs.

On Saturday, President Edgar Lungu admitted that Zambia was likely to experience a poor harvest this year.

“We were asking the Minister of Agriculture to give us an indication, we are worried yes, but she said it is a bit too early to give us a forecast but from a lay man’s perspective, we might have a poor harvest,” said President Lungu.

Asked if government had out measures in place to ensure food security, the Head of State said; “We have taken stock of what we have in terms of FRA reserves, we are comfortable but it depends on how we manage the utilisation of that maize which is in stock.”

And in an interview, ZNFU Media and Public Relations Manager Calvin Kaleyi agreed with President Lungu, noting that a lot of farmers had not yet received their inputs.

“As at Tuesday [last week] government indicated that they had covered 700,000 farmers but then only about 575,617 had managed to redeem. The picture is that a lot of farmers have not actually accessed inputs. If you are talking about 575,617, you are basically talking about 57.5 percent of the 1 million farmers that were targeted. What about the rest? When are they going to get?” Kaleyi asked.

Kaleyi said 2018 was not promising because of the rainfall pattern, outbreak of army worms as well as the late distribution of inputs.

“There were issues that were raised, issues of some farmers failing to access inputs because of duplication of NRCs. Other issues were attributed to banks delaying to unlock funds to pay the farmers. So it creates a very difficult situation for the year 2018. Because if only 575,000 farmers are able to redeem, we don’t know what will come out of it. As you can see the rainfall pattern has not been very good, then in some areas there has been an out break of army worms and then only a smaller number of farmers have accessed inputs. It’s not looking like a good picture for 2018,” he said.

“The Ministry of Agriculture is saying that by today, they should be able to reach 87 percent [of farmers]. We are just waiting to see what will come out of their final report. They are going to carry out a review of the E-Voucher system some time in March. So we are waiting to see how the outcome is going to be. But on the ground, its not a very good picture.”

Meanwhile, Kaleya urged farmers to start planting early maturing seed to help salvage the situation.

“If the rains start falling again, we urge farmers to try and plant early maturing seed variety. If it begins to rain, then farmers whose crops haven’t germinated or those that have have been waiting to plant should just plant early maturing seeds though its late. They may have some crop. Otherwise the situation is not looking very good. There are some areas where it has been raining consistently like in Chilabombwe, Kalulushi, Chingola because of the influence of Congo [DR]. In Congo it rains almost all the time because they have two rainy seasons. So those that are near Congo, there is that Congo influence so they have a good rainfall pattern. But for most parts of Zambia, it has been bad. The last time it rained properly was about 14, 15 days ago. It is not a good situation,” said Kaleya.