The Ministry of Agriculture’s delay in the distribution of farming inputs for 2018/2019 farming season is disturbing and unacceptable, says the Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD).

And CTPD head of programmes and research Brian Mwiinga has blamed parliamentarians for government’s delay to distribute inputs, accusing them of having failed to put the PF government to task by taking them on during parliamentary debates.

In a statement, Mwiinga wondered when government intended to commence distribution of farming inputs to farmers in the country, stating that signs were clear that sooner rather than later, Zambia would receive the first rains.

“We have been eagerly awaiting to see the flagging off of the distribution of farming inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) initiative for the 2018/2019 farming season, which is at hand. Signs are clear that sooner rather than later, Zambia will receive the first rains. Going by the 22nd Southern African Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) held in Lusaka, Zambia from August 22-24, it was revealed that the rainy season in most of SADC countries, which includes Zambia, would start around October, 2018, to March, 2019. What is not clear, however, is when the Zambian government intends to start distributing farming inputs for the farming season that is at hand. In July, 2018, on the floor of Parliament, Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo indicated that the distribution of agricultural inputs would commence on 1st September, 2018. Our calendars indicate that we are now in October, but we have not seen nor heard any rumour of the government having commenced the distribution of farming inputs,” Mwiinga stated.

“Since this statement was made on the floor of Parliament, we wonder why our parliamentarians, whom we pay a lot of money and most of whom come from rural constituencies where farming is the main source of livelihood for their constituents, some of whom voted for them, have not raised concerns over this matter, one month on. We begin to wonder what our honourable MPs are doing if such important matters are quiet in their debates. We are also still wondering as to how many of the one million targeted beneficiaries will be on the e-voucher system and how many will be on the old FISP system. We would appreciate an update on how the government has addressed the challenges of the e-voucher system experienced last year, if at all they have.”

Mwiinga called on government to expedite the process of delivering farming inputs for the 2018/2019 farming season, insisting that it was an obligation that government had to Zambians.

He also asked government to disclose how many of the one million targeted farmers will benefit from the electronic voucher system, and those who will remain on the conventional FISP, as well as give a clear road map on how challenges of the e-voucher system, experienced last year, would be addressed.

“The conspicuous silence from the Minister of Agriculture is a something that we find disturbing and unacceptable as CTPD as it has the potential to negatively affect the agricultural sector’s performance vis-à-vis compromise the country’s food security position. We, therefore, wish to also remind the Minister of Agriculture just in case he has forgotten that agriculture is the main source of livelihood for majority of our people, especially in the rural areas. It is also a major contributor to the country’s GDP and by far offers the best opportunities for the government’s diversification agenda and poverty reduction efforts,” stated Mwiinga.

“May we remind the Minister that this year’s harvest was quite poor and in a long time we had no bumper harvest to brag about and part of the reason for the poor performance of the sector last season was simply because of poor planning and mishandling of the e-voucher system. At the rate we are moving, a repeat of the disorganised FISP and e-voucher system is more likely this year. This is one thing we ought to avoid at all cost. As CTPD, we, therefore, wish to appeal to the Government of the Republic of Zambia to expedite the process of delivering the agricultural inputs for the 2018/2019 farming season. This is an obligation they have to the Zambian people, especially the small-scale farmers.”