Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo has urged agro-dealers to justify debt which government owes them from as far back as 2015, promising to clear it once funds are available.

And Katambo says farmers who have paid their K400 contribution to the e-voucher system and Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) across the country have started receiving inputs and fertilizer for the 2019/2020 farming season.

In an interview, Katambo admitted that government was still owing an undisclosed amount of money to a number of agro-dealers for the supply and delivery of farming inputs, but that the Ministry was still verifying how much was owed to the respective agro dealers.

“Yes, we are still owing some of them, but we will pay them. The agro dealers know when we get into a contract with them, they understand the contract that they get from the Ministry of Agriculture and they know the modalities of paying them. They understand that very well. So, once funds are released, we are committed to be paying each one of them so that we settle the obligations or the debts that we owe them. The commitment is there already and we are engaging them. But they need to justify what we owe them. Whoever is owed up to 2015 has to justify and come to you, as Diggers! to say ‘the Ministry of Agriculture owes me so much an amount from this time to date’ because there has been verification going on, and agro dealers have been paid from time immemorial. So, they need to justify and indicate the agro dealer company name, let us know so that we do the verification and from that information, we’ll ask our accounts department, ‘why has (this) person not been paid from this time?’ So, we’ve been doing verification,” Katambo explained.

And responding to UPND member of parliament Attractor Chisangano, who earlier this week revealed that farmers in her constituency had still not started receiving inputs for the next farming season, Katambo advised the lawmaker to follow up with District Agriculture Coordinator (DACO), saying every farmer that had paid for activation was receiving the inputs.

“We commenced the distribution; the farmers who contributed are supposed to be accessing inputs now. We commenced and it’s open. Those who have contributed are supposed to be accessing inputs. Those who are under the direct input supply modality already it’s 100 per cent; people have received their fertilizer and seed. So, the member of parliament for Gwembe should go and see my DACO (District Agriculture Coordinator) in Gwembe District and ask him why he is not releasing the inputs to those who have paid the K400,” said Katambo.