Empower large-scale farmers, WB urges State

THE World Bank says Government needs to ensure large-scale farmers that use irrigation are given incentives to produce for domestic needs to reduce food security risks.
This will also further boost export of produce thereby contributing to wealth creation that could be channelled to other sectors of the ecomony to generate the much-needed jobs.
“Zambia needs to, alongside supporting poorer farmers, ensure that large-scale commercial farmers [using irrigation] have incentives to produce for domestic needs and export. Enhancing agricultural productivity is essential, but it requires budgeting for more than just subsidised agricultural inputs,” World Bank country manager Ina Ruthenberg said.
Ms Ruthenberg told the parliamentary committee on budget and estimates chaired by Mbala member of Parliament Mwalimu Simfukwe that both the farmer input support programme (FISP) and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) are associated with high-levels of inefficiency and wastage that need to be addressed.
“There are large arrears associated with the FRA and the FISP as the levels of expenditure grew beyond what the government could afford in 2015 and 2016.   The current targeting of FISP and FRA does not sufficiently support the poor,” she observed.
In the short term, Ms Ruthenberg said Government should focus on clearing arrears attributed to the FISP and FRA.
She called on Government to start treating farming as a business, saying efforts are needed to ensure the FRA pays them on time in future as this helps farmers prepare and invest for the next season.
She also said the policy announcement that the 2017-18 farming season FISP is to be provided via the e-voucher system is essential to curb wastage of the traditional FISP.
“The roll-out needs to be closely monitored so that the inevitable challenges can be overcome, especially in remote areas.  Also in 2017, Government should review the FRA mandate and its role in the market,” Ms Ruthenberg said.

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