Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) president Jervis Zimba has asked the Ministry of Finance to release funds to pay farmers for crop marketing and input supply.

In a statement issued Thursday, Zimba stated that it was regrettable that late paying of farmers had become a norm.

“The Zambia National Farmers’ Union would like to urge Government through the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Agriculture to put priority on release of funds to pay farmers for crop marketing and input supply. We are in the middle of crop marketing and farmers are not being paid instantly by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) for the maize supplied and some input suppliers have not been paid for inputs supplied under FISP. It is regrettable that not paying farmers on time has become the new normal way of doing business when dealing with the FRA as opposed to being an exception, why? Most farmers depend on rain-fed farming thus get one income stream in a year,” Zimba stated.

Zimba observed that continued delay in paying farmers might lead to poor implementation of the FISP e-voucher.

“Therefore, delaying paying them results in a chain reaction because depositing of funds will not take place on time for the FISP E-voucher and all the good plans thrown in disarray. The Union is concerned because it is such delays that will lead to poor implementation of the FISP E-voucher again yet this is a very good programme which could emancipate the farmers and contribute towards diversification,” Zimba observed.

He advised the treasury to speed up its decisions relating to farmers’ concerns saying rains did not wait for anyone.

“Notwithstanding all the competing demands on Government, it is time to walk the talk and avoid repeating the same mistakes every year because the cycle of crop production is known by all. Our reminder to the Treasury is that rains do not wait for anyone hence decisions concerning farming cannot be delayed. It is now the end of August and input acquisition is high on the farmers’ checklist hence there is need to re-engineer the sequencing of release of budgetary resources to give priority to ventures that are cardinal for propelling agriculture production. We have been compelled to highlight the current worrying situation because of the outcry from our members,” Zimba stated.

“It is also important to highlight that Government has still not fully paid Agribusiness Suppliers for the last season FISP-E voucher programme, yet the companies must gear up and position inputs for this season. This is of grave concern as delayed payments to Agribusiness propel additional costs which affect future pricing of inputs making farming costly. As a Union we recognise that Government plans and intentions are good, BUT it is eminent that implementation is faltering thus our call for immediate remedial action.”

He further advised government to postpone funding for projects that can wait and instead meet the pressing needs in the agriculture sector.

“We therefore make an earnest appeal to the Honourable Minister of Finance to come to the aid of the agriculture sector and release funds so that the engines on farms begin to move again. Posterity will judge us harshly for wasting opportunities as production slides downwards unchecked. The Union has always advocated for a special vault to be created for agriculture production related payments so that diversions to pay for other expenditures are eliminated. Thus, Government should consider postponing funding for projects that can wait to meet the pressing and time bound payments that must be made to keep alive Zambia’s agriculture dream at all cost,” stated Zimba.