Zambia National Farmers Union is disappointed by government’s failure to implement the Farmer Input Support Programme E-Voucher pilot programme to improve inputs delivery system.
And ZNFU has expressed shock at the continued delays by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to pay small scale farmers who supplied maize to the agency in the 2013 marketing season.
Meanwhile, government officials were conspicuously missing at the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU)’s 108Th annual congress whose theme was repositioning agriculture for sustainable development.
Newly elected ZNFU president Evelyn Nguleka said that the union was disappointed with government’s failure to implement the E-Voucher project, saying that another year has been lost in implementing a failed project or system which was key to streamlining the FISP operations and enlarge private sector player’s participation.
Dr. Nguleka who is the first female to occupy the office of president for the union said that farmers throughout the country were readily available to respond to produce, if only inputs were made available on time.
“Farmers in this country are ready to respond and stand available to produce if there is a readily available market that rewards the farmer very well through an economic price. With regards to price farmers believe that creating a viable export market is the route to go if Zambia is to have a sustainable maize industry,” Dr. Nguleka said.
She noted with sadness that the country experienced a drop in maize production last farming season because of the delays in the distribution of farming inputs to an extent where fertilizer (Urea) was only made available to small scale farmers in late in February.
“Farmers do want a repeat of last years’ events. Taking into account the logistical hurdles of transporting fertilizer into the country then the distribution into districts, this has already generated concerns among our members,” she said.
Dr. Nguleka observed that her union was also highly concerned about lack of confidence in the maize marketing across borders, “historically the banning and unbanning of maize exports have not instilled any confidence in the maize trading across borders. Therefore government must ensure that the FRA straighten its operations to take care of national food strategic reserves and allow the private sector to participate and handle exports without resorting to banning and unbanning. The union is concerned with the approach government has taken of limiting exports to be a preserve of only government to government transactions.”
She strongly warned that such machination was a recipe for disaster and it was retrogressive towards farmer empowerment through an economic price of the commodity.
Dr. Nguleka noted that government should not be in a business of doing business, saying that its primary role and function as government was to provide a conducive policy environment for the private sector to do business and create jobs for the Zambian people.
She said that there was also need by government to build confidence in the players in the sector by ensuring that critical issues such as the policy environment, policy consistencies, consultation and trust among players was improved.
Dr. Nguleka said that government should also consider re-directing resources at addressing areas that were aimed at creating an enabling environment for agriculture to thrive and that Zambian agriculture products become competitive against inputs in the local market and exports market.