Lusaka, January 13, 2020
On Sunday January 5, Agriculture Minister Hon Michael Katambo noted that government has finished distributing both seed and fertiliser in Luapula province which is under DIS. During a monitoring visit in last year, it came to light that while beneficiaries of the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) have begun receiving inputs in most parts of the country, many farmers are still experiencing accessibility challenges. Indeed, most farmers under the DIS have already received inputs however many farmers that are under the e-voucher have been experiencing challenges in accessing inputs, especially fertiliser.
As most people are aware, the main challenge in the accessibility of inputs under the e-voucher is the late payments from government to agro-dealers. Government arrears to agro-dealers stands at K374 million and this has adversely affected the capacity of many agro-dealerships to stock inputs to sell to farmers in the this farming season.
Last year it was agreed that the Government would ring-fence the resources it received from all the K400 farmer deposits and that the resources raised would be channelled towards ensuring payments are made to agro-dealers for inputs given out in the 2019/20 farming season.
The results from the monitoring visits to the various e-voucher districts indicated that only a few agro-dealerships that had submitted their invoices to government for payments early in the first week of November had received their money. Most of the agrodealers that had submitted invoices for payments at the time of the field visit reported that they had not yet received any funds and as a result were unable to restock inputs to provide to farmers.
Some farmers have to travel long distances to get to the agodealers farmers and as a result of the payment delay are being forced to spend nights in corridors at agro-dealerships in the hopes of accessing inputs in the days to come.
The money that was ring-fenced to support the farmers under the e-voucher was reported to be adequate for the 2019/20 farming season, however the delays in processing payments on the governments end has resulted in many farmers being left stranded.
Further to this, the delayed payments to agro-dealerships is threatening the credibility of the e-voucher programme which many stakeholders, including the Government, have acknowledged is better than the DIS as it promotes diversity, creates jobs and saves money for the government. Indeed, some farmers who we met in Southern Province indicated that due to the e-voucher they were able to access inputs such as ploughs and various other medicines for their cattle.
In light of climate change the stakes for the successful delivery of the e-voucher could not be higher. Last year, a significant amount of the population was adversely affected by the low rainfall resulting in shortages and high prices of food. Food is currently sitting at an inflation rate of 15.2 percent. When payments are delayed farmers cannot receive their inputs and the individual that is most negatively affected is the consumer. It is imperative that the Government finds a way of processing payments quicker to ensure that farmers get their inputs on time.
Kindly quote Mr Ishmael Zulu, Programme Officer, Consumer Unity and Trust Society
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