By JOHN SAKALA
Copperbelt Rainbow Party Chairperson Charles Mubanga says 2018/2019 farming season will be another flop like 2017/2018 farming season where some Electronic Vouchers (EV) were activated last month.
Mr Mubanga was reacting to the announcement by Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo who announced that Government would begin input distribution on September 1.
He said the timing of 2018/2019 is again not the best for the small scale farmer, especially those involved in maize farming.
“Knowing how the government system operates and going by the experience of the past years, farmers will end up receiving their inputs way after the planting period is over leading to low yields and high potential losses. Last farming season distribution of inputs, under the E- Voucher system was chaotic leading to some farmers getting their inputs in January or February, while others never collected any.
“After this experience, farmers expected things to improve this year by commencing the distribution early enough for them to start planting in good time. For instance farmers understand that an early planted crop gives them a higher yield and it’s easier to manage in the field than a late planted field,” he said.
He said in some cases, farmers are told that the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) would be executed both under the old conventional and EV systems.
Mr Mubanga who is a farmer himself said reverting to the old conventional system simply confirms that government is not ready with the EV system thereby exposing the agricultural sector to the usual policy inconsistencies of the PF government.
“The EV has been frustrated by politicians and technocrats who used to benefit from FISP. Therefore, the ultimate beneficiaries from the reintroduction of the old system will be those with vested interests and not the farmers.
“We call on government and the Food Reserve Agency to start buying the agro produce especially in their traditional markets. Again, we know that if the FRA starts buying maize late, with their usual delays in payments, farmers will end up receiving their inputs way after the planting period is over,” he said.
He said input distribution should have started earlier than September considering the previous seasons’ experiences.
And reverting to the old system of inputs distribution will not necessarily benefit the farmers but politicians and technocrats who failed to abuse the E Voucher system.
He said the FRA is late and should start buying maize now so that farmers can plan for their inputs while there is time to do so.
In Zambian history no Minister of Agriculture has delivered farming inputs on time. Wylbur Simuusa as Agriculture Minister delivered Compound D but forgot to deliver seed and urea.