FISP affected by exchange rate, says Lubinda

THE global economic crisis has seriously affected the agricultural sector including Government’s Farmers Input Support Programme (FISP) as well as commercial farmers who are making cash purchases to obtain farm inputs, Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda has revealed.

He admitted that the depreciation of the Kwacha against other convertible currencies had caused the escalation of prices of agriculture inputs and has had a negative effect on the Government’s electronic voucher system which is being piloted in 13 districts.

Mr Lubinda told the Daily Nation that the E-Voucher system which was launched by President Edgar Lungu last month had been affected by the exchange rate and that some farmers were receiving less inputs than planned, which he said was a concern to Government.

He said following reports that the E-voucher system was failing because of the instability of the exchange rate, Government had decided to increase the amount by reloading the vouchers with more money so that all the 241,000 farmers received equal amounts of their farm inputs.

Mr Lubinda  said it was incorrect to assert that the exchange rate had only affected FISP because even the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries had been affected as the cattle industry had become a more expensive venture.

He said the E-voucher system was being seen as having failed because of the global economic challenges and cautioned Zambians against falling into the temptation of being used by people who were against the system.

“The escalation of the global prices in commodities is not unique to the agriculture sector. There is no reason to exclude the agro sector from the pangs of the global economic crisis.

‘‘It is true that the fluctuating exchange has reduced the fertilizer packs for farmers under FISP as it is true that commercial farmers have also suffered from the increased prices for the inputs.

‘‘We have acknowledged that farmers are not getting their required inputs and we have moved to increase the E-voucher amounts by reloading them so that all farmers receive equal amounts,” Mr Lubinda said.

The minister said he had told Parliament recently that the E-voucher system had been adversely affected by the depreciation of the Kwacha but advised that there was no cause for Government to abandon the system as it was only being piloted.