Posted by Benson on December 06, 2017

ZAMBIA National Farmers Union president Jervis Zimba says Zambia’s agriculture is dying. Zimba said in an interview yesterday that what was happening in the agriculture sector was a complete economic sabotage of the worst kind.

He called on President Edgar Lungu to be hands-on before the sector completely goes on it knees Zimba said.

He said President Lungu was being ill-advised by those charged with the responsibility of promoting the agriculture sector. Zimba further wondered why most of the farmers who had supplied maize to the Food Reserve Agency had not been paid to date.

He also said the much publicized e-voucher system was a total disaster for the farmers as most of them had failed to make use of it owing to non-availability of funding by government.

“The President was wrongly advised and we believe that all people that have been peddling all these issues regarding agriculture, starting from last year up to now, I think its high time the President checked on it. Up to now, you can imagine that the farmers that sold maize to FRA three or four months ago have not been paid,” Zimba said. “And then the e-voucher is a total disaster because to date, the farmers are not redeeming and the government has not put in counter funding for the farmers to start getting inputs. One side, FRA is not disbursing the money and the other side, government has not put in funds. We have never a situation where by December, farmers have had no access to inputs and anybody who has not planted maize up to the 15th [December], it means when ever they plant, their yields will be poor.”

He said it was a misrepresentation to say FRA was paying the farmers.

“The rhetorical saying that FRA has been given money and it started paying farmers, nothing is happening on the ground. And again, you can see that we are under the threat of army worms. All these things compounded together, I think we either don’t know where we are going as a nation or don’t know where we are coming as a nation,” Zimba said.

 

He said the FRA amendment Act being pushed by the Ministry of Agriculture would not help the sector but further push it to its knees. Zimba said if effected, “the Act will put the last nail on the coffin of agriculture in Zambia”.

“As far as we are concerned, the President needs to intervene personally in this matter before agriculture goes on its knees. You can imagine, even at the height of all these issues, the Ministry of Agriculture is busy pushing the amendment Act of FRA to turn it into Namboard of yesteryear when in the actual fact, the private sector should have been moving slowly to take over all these little things,”Mr. Zimba said.

“Even though they are doing consultation, they have already made up their minds but I can tell that once that Act is put in place, they are putting the last nail on the coffin of agriculture because that will crowd out the private sector.”

He further wondered why the government was trying to borrow K78 million to erect new shades. Zimba said FRA, a major player on the market, had destroyed agriculture in the country and reverting it to the National Agriculture Marketing Board (Namboard) would not help matters.

“Why government is trying to borrow K78 million to put in new shades for FRA is mind-boggling. The private sector should have been encouraged. The world over, private sector stocks the staple food for the nation. There is no need for government to panic regarding change of FRA. We do not know why they are in a hurry pushing around people to do the consultation but I can tell that it has not gone down well with the farmers, it hasn’t gone well with the private sector because now we are going to have the Namboard of yesteryear,”Zimba said.

“Let’s take for example what is happening right now; FRA was the major player on the market but can you see how they have destroyed agriculture? If we allow that Act to be changed, it’s going to be destructive. And that PPP [Public Private Partnership] arrangement is a conduit to make cartels. The cartel will determine what the price will be for maize and mealy meal and they will destroy agriculture completely. We are tired of these cartels in the agriculture sector.”

He said changing the Act would automatically mean legalizing the works of a cartel in the agriculture sector.

“If they want to change this act, it’s legalizing a cartel which will be looking at the agriculture sector and farmers are concerned that it will mean the end of them. Really, agriculture, the way we are seeing it at the moment, it’s a sorry sight and an economic sabotage happening slowly. This is a systematic approach on how they want agriculture to suffer. You can go and ask seed companies and fertilizer companies, I challenge anyone,”Zimba said .

And Zimba said his earlier comments that the FRA had swindled farmers by offering a low maize price had attracted litigation against him but said he felt vindicated going by what was obtaining in the country.

He maintained that the K60 price of maize was and is a disaster.

“The head of state was ill-advised about this matter starting from last year when exports were being banned and the K60 which now has proved to be a disaster. I have been vindicated, I was saying FRA is swindling farmers but I was threatened so I will be going to court but look at what’s happening now,” said Zimba. “Four months, farmers have not been paid and the planting season is on. The head of state must intervene before the agriculture sector completely dies.

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