KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka
THE Agriculture Consultative Forum (ACF) has urged Government to outline key action areas in the 2015 budgetthat will build a broad-based agriculture sector to stimulate growth from production through processing to marketing.
ACF director Joseph Mbinji said the organisation has submitted to Government that key drivers of agriculture growth such as research, extension, infrastructure, irrigation and livestock development should be allocated more resources.
Government has continued to regard agriculture as a priority sector due to its contribution to national and household food security, foreign exchange earnings, contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) as well as increased incomes for those involved in the sector.
Mr Mbinji said, â€œDespite this realisation by Government, and the increased allocation of resources to the sector, its contribution to poverty reduction and general economic development has still remained a challenge due to a number of factors which include having less than 10 percent budgetary allocation to the agriculture sector.
Other concerns include spending over 60 percent of allocated funds to programmes such as Farmer Input Support Programme and to the Food Reserve Agency that benefit well-off farmers and millers at the expense of the majority poor small-scale farmers.
He said Government should implement the policy reforms set out in the Sixth National Development Plan/Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme Investment Plan to make the agriculture budget responsive.
â€œThese include putting in place an Agricultural Marketing Act that will regulate market players in the agriculture sector, operationalise the Agricultural Credit Act of 2010 to provide for use of the warehouse receipt system (WRS) and link the WRS to the input voucher system,â€ ACF submits,â€ he said.
Other actions are implementation of the e-voucher as planned in the 2014 budget and also that system should be flexible not only focusing on maize but, support agricultural diversification to achieve income generation, food and nutrition security.
ACF further proposes the irrigation fund should be implemented by a specialised agency to achieve prudent resources use irrigation as opposed to the current situation where there is a serious underutilisation of funds.
KABANDA CHULU, Lusaka