NDC secretary general Mwenya Musenge says an NDC government will introduce an ‘Agricultural Industrial Bank’ that will give loans to business ventures that will convert agricultural produce into finished products.

In its weekly newsletter to News Diggers! on agricultural sector plans and reforms, Musenge stated that an NDC government would introduce an ‘Agricultural Industrial Bank’ in collaboration with the private sector, which would give loans to business ventures in a bid to convert agricultural produce into finished products.

“Since the involvement of commercial banks in the small and medium-scale agricultural sector remains negligible, NDC government will introduce a bank called Agricultural Development Bank in collaboration with the private sector that will give loans to business ventures that have cooperated to convert agricultural produce to finished products. Hence creating linkages between agricultural sector and industrial sector,” Musenge stated.

“We will ensure that youth and women cooperatives are formed and will access loans from the ‘Agricultural and Development Bank’ in the conversion of agricultural produce to finished products.”

Musenge also noted that there had been no significant developments in Zambia’s agricultural policy since the 1970s.

He also observed that late budget disbursements to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, had an effect on service delivery because it affected operations and execution of other agricultural programmes.

“Additionally, heavy spending on FISP (Farmer Input Support Programme) and Food Reserve Agency (FRA) only, has left few resources to invest in other recognized drivers of agricultural growth and stifled diversification as the country policies are maize-centric, which is a low value crop. Another hindrance is the continuous late budget releases to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock. Late budget releases to support extension officers and field operational funds affect operations and execution of other agricultural programmes, hence affecting service delivery,” Musenge stated.

“We will increase spending in public infrastructure, which will incorporate the following issues: irrigation development as a way to lessen drought and improve productivity; we will also focus on extension and educational programmes for effective and efficient utilization of inputs; we will also ensure continuous infrastructure development and improve timing for budget releases. As NDC, we will develop an effective monitoring tool intended to increase budgeting transparency and accountability in the sector,” he stated.

He stated that NDC would further revamp agriculture cooperatives and diversify them for bulk input supply and marketing services for the production of specific commodities other than maize, rice and soya; adding that each district would only focus on a crop that best suited the region.

“We will make a deliberate effort to support smallholder horticultural production by allocating public funding towards infrastructure and entrepreneur activities that will support: slicing; packaging; canning and dicing, and production of juice, sauces, preservatives. We will foster private-public partnerships with tax incentives in the area of processing horticulture products to finished produce. We will also invest in horticulture trading markets, locally and abroad, and use Zambian missions abroad,” Musenge pledged.

Musenge stated that when NDC forms government, it would direct more resources to disease control through the construction of extra dip tanks and establishment of breeding centres and effective breeding programmes in every rural ward.

Meanwhile, Musenge noted that to enable a thriving fishing industry, an NDC government would, among other measures, reorganise the fisheries department into Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture and ensure that each was funded separately.

“We will reorganise the fisheries department into Capture Fisheries and Aquaculture, and ensure that each is funded separately and adequately; we will introduce an Aquaculture and Fisheries Fund for fish production for small and medium-scale sector, especially for youth and women. This will multiply fish production from aquaculture, especially by small and medium business, hence creating employment and reducing poverty amongst the youth and women. We will also enforce fishing regulations that avoid depletion of fish stocks in water bodies, but at the same time, promote other fish-producing activities that boost reproduction of fish stocks,” stated Musenge.