By ALICE NACHILEMBE
Consumer Unity and Trust Society has urged Government to focus their efforts on the larger problem facing farmers than taking legal actions on them.
CUTS was reacting to the Ministry of Agriculture which has announced that it will take legal action against agro-dealers that redeemed farmers’ vouchers in the 2019/20 farming season without providing inputs.
CUTS Programme Officer Ishmael Zulu said Government to focus their efforts on the accumulation of arrears and late release of funds to agro dealers.
Mr Zulu said that many farmers are traveling long distances and being forced to sleep in corridors outside agro dealerships as they wait for their local agro dealers to receive their money from the government.
He said over the past three farming seasons (2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20) many agro-dealerships have been providing inputs to farmers on credit and awaiting payment from the Government.
Mr Zulu said that according to the Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo, the Governments debt to agro-dealers currently stands at K781 million up from K384 million before the onset of the 2019/20 farming season.
He said it is important to note that behind the term “agro-dealer” are people striving to earn a living for their families.
Mr Zulu said the e-voucher in its inception created jobs and improved livelihoods, but with the subsequent late payment by the government numerous agro-dealers have been adversely affected.
“In November 2019, CUTS undertook a trip to Western and Southern Province to monitor the implementation of the e-voucher programme one of the findings was that farmers were spending nights in corridors because agro-dealers were not able to provide inputs – a problem stemming from the late payments by the government. Many agro-dealers spoken to promise farmers inputs based off of commitments made by government in the 2019/20 farming season that agro-dealers would be paid from money ring-fenced from the K400 deposits made by farmers under FISP,” he said.