Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo says government still owes agro dealers K633 million.

Responding to a question asked by Nkeyema UPND member of parliament Kapelwa Mbangweta, who wanted to find out whether government had managed to pay agro dealers who were owed, Katambo said K20 million was released by the Ministry of Finance to pay off some of the debt, but said government still owed K633 million.

“Mr Speaker, we are continuously dismantling the debt that we owe to the agro dealers that we contracted. We have about K633 million. Today (Thursday), K20 million was released by the Ministry of Finance. Mr Speaker, we owed agro dealers over K4 billion, and now we only have K633 million so commitment is there. Also, there was K20 million released for transporters so we remain with about K16 million to completely pay off all those that we owe. The retention of the K400 will be able to sort out all these problems of payments for this season,” Katambo said.

And when asked by Mkushi North PF member of parliament Doreen Mwape what action government would take on agro dealers that were paid by government, but did not supply inputs under FISP to the beneficiaries, Katambo said the dealers would be blacklisted.

“Agro dealers who are engaging in fraudulent activities should be brought before the Ministry and the law enforcement agencies. Those who will be found wanting to deprive the beneficiaries should be reported and once the Ministry identifies them, they will be blacklisted. We will not engage such fraudulent agro dealers,” he responded.

And speaking earlier when rendering a ministerial statement on the preparations of the 2020-2021 Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), Katambo announced that a total of one million farmers would be targeted to receive inputs under the programme.

“Mr Speaker, we are all aware that the FISP programme has faced several challenges in its implementation. As government, we are going to overcome these challenges. I am happy to inform this August House that the issue of late delivery of inputs to the districts is being addressed. Farmers have already started receiving their inputs for the 2020/2021 agricultural season. Mr Speaker, let me now highlight some of the measures that we have put in place for the FISP in the 2020-2021 agriculture season; the programme will be implemented as follows: modalities of implementation, namely the e-voucher and the direct input supply, will be used. A total of one million farmers will be targeted to receive inputs under the programme,” said Katambo.

“The farmer contribution remains unchanged at K400. For this agricultural season, six fertilizer suppliers have been contracted to supply inputs under the Direct Input Supply system. The fertilizer has been delivered to all the districts except in those districts where there are no storage facilities. For the districts without storage space, the fertilizer has been strategically per-positioned so that it can easily be delivered to those districts when needed. Further, the Ministry has contracted nine seed suppliers to supply various seeds and to-date, over 70 per cent of seed has been delivered to the districts. Mr Speaker, under the e-voucher system, we shall continue to work with agro dealers to provide inputs to the farmers. To avert accumulation of areas to agro dealers, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance will this farming season ensure that agro dealers are paid promptly.”