AGRICULTURE Minister Michael Katambo says the Ministry will take legal action against agro dealers who did not issue inputs to farmers in the 2019/2020 agricultural season.

And Katambo has revealed that government still owes agro dealers K781 million, an increase from the previously announced balance of K374 million last November.

Rendering a ministerial statement in Parliament, Thursday, Katambo said some agro dealers redeemed farmers’ vouchers, but failed to issue them with the redeemed inputs.

“I wish to remind the honourable members that in the 2019/2020 agricultural season, the Farmer Input Support Program (FISP) was implemented using two approaches, namely: the direct input supply and the e-voucher modalities. We targeted 1 million farmers in the 2019/2020 season. Of the one million farmers, a total of 382,455,000 were under thee-voucher mechanism in 42 districts, while the remainder were on the direct input supply mechanism. I am happy to report that all the targeted farmers managed to redeem their inputs for the 2019/2020 agricultural season for both the e-voucher and the direct input supply modalities,” Katambo said.

“Despite some successes in implementing FISP, the programme faced some challenges. These challenges particularly affected the e-voucher modalities. Some agro dealers redeemed the farmers’ vouchers, but did not issue them with redeemed inputs. I wish to state that the Ministry is addressing these reports of agro dealers, who did not issue inputs to farmers. Where such reports are verified, the erring agro dealers will face legal action and the Ministry will reverse all such transactions to allow the framers to collect inputs from alternative agro dealers.”

And he revealed that government still owed agro dealers K781 million, up from K374 million.

Last November, Katambo had told Parliament that government’s indebtedness to agro dealers stood at K374 million.

“There have been several questions in this House on payment to agro dealers. Allow me to give an update on the effort we are making to ensure that agro dealers are paid. At the end of 2019, the total involved amounted to K1.9 billion. So far, we have paid K1.1 billion. We are currently owing about K781 million. I would like to assure members of this House and the agro dealers that we are doing everything possible to dismantle arrears to the agro dealers. And we are cognizant of the challenges facing the agro dealers. Therefore, I appeal to the agro dealers to remain patient as we dismantle these areas. I wish to encourage members if the House to engage district authorities within which their constituencies fall to raise issues surrounding the programme,” said Katambo.