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By Vincent Chilikima in Chinsali
Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo says government will not increase the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) beneficiaries during the 2020/2021 agricultural season

Speaking yesterday when he paid a courtesy call at the Chinsali District Commissioner’s office, Mr Katambo explained that parliament had already approved a budget for 1 million FISP beneficiaries countrywide, out of which Muchinga Province was allocated with 72,000 beneficiaries.

National Agricultural Information Services reports that the minister revealed that government will maintain the last year’s list of beneficiaries and that, only, ineligible participants such as civil servants would be detached by SMART Zambia to pave way for new entrants.

He further explained that the current economic situation may not permit for additions on the number of beneficiaries but that government’s policy was to wean-off all the current beneficiaries in 2021.

Mr Katambo, however, disclosed that his ministry was currently working towards revising the implementation of FISP in view of several proposals from stakeholders that include the increase on the size of the package for each beneficiary and the increase on the number of FISP beneficiaries.

The Minister was responding to Chinsali District Commissioner, Mrs Mary Witika Chifuna, who requested that Chinsali be considered for increasing the FISP beneficiaries in view of it being the current highest contributor of maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) in Muchinga Province.

Meanwhile, Neria’s Investments General Manager, Martin Chaikatisha, said his company was adequately prepared and equal to the task of early fertilizer distribution to FISP beneficiaries during the 2020/2021 agricultural season in Muchinga Province.

And speaking earlier, Mr Katambo disclosed that his trip to Muchinga Province was in response to His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s directive that agricultural inputs should be stocked early for timely distribution to farmers and that the FRA should buy enough maize for national strategic food reserves.

He said President Lungu wants all leaders to engage in massive sensitization so that farmers may appreciate the importance of household and national food security in view of the uncertainties presented by the COVID 19 and unpredictable future climatic conditions.

Minister Katambo lamented that although farmers were free to sell their maize anywhere, reports of rampant smuggling of maize in border areas was a threat to national food security adding that government was keen to provide export permits once its target of securing 1 million metric tonnes of maize for national strategic food reserves is achieved.

Mr Katambo said that the sensitization message should include that all FISP beneficiaries should deposit their K400.00 contributions very soon in readiness for collection of inputs by September 1.