Farmers in the country are owed more than K150 million by the Food Reserve Agency and the Zambia National Farmers Union has stated that no farmer should be disadvantaged because it was not their fault that they were not paid on time.
The Union has also ordered government to ensure that all farmers still owed by the Agency be given fertiliser under the Farmer Input Support Programme through a special arrangements.
ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said it was critical for the farmers to be paid and given inputs as it helped them plan for the coming farming season which he said was already upon them.
Zimba also appealed to government to sort out outstanding issues with seed companies because lack of maize seeds was affecting the farmers adding “FISP is not about fertiliser alone because seeds are very important component in our programme.”
“Our earnest appeal to the minister of agriculture is that government should work round the clock to ensure that all FISP inputs are distributed to our farmers before the onset of planting rains” he said.
Zimba who was speaking at the launch of the 2013/2014 Lima Credit Scheme in Kabwe pointed out that lack of functioning warehouse receipts regulatory body was hurting farmers as it was a key tool in offering marketing support to farmers.
He said the warehouse receipts system was instrumental in helping local farmers access regional markets for surplus produce as well as in assisting government hold strategic national food reserves in very cost effective manner.
“Farmers are currently unable to exploit the benefits of a functioning warehouse receipt systems due to delays in signing a statutory instrument appointing a warehouse licensing agency” Zimba said.
He said while the private sector were ready to come on board, the slow government wheels needed to move a little faster to help with the needed frameworks to make the warehouse receipt system operational.
Meanwhile the Lima Credit Scheme which started five years ago with a modest coverage of 600 hectares of maize with a loan facility exposure of K600, 000 has increased to K40 million in 2012/2013 season with 10, 500 farmers from 41 districts participating.
“The programme is a partnership between the Union and the Zambia National Commercial Bank and is currently targeting to service 20,000 farmers this season with loan portfolio in excess of K100 million in 51 districts” Zimba said.
He said there has been massive demand for the programme from farmers because it supplemented government efforts under the FISP because not all small scale farmers were able to access inputs supplied under the FISP programme.