Engage co-operatives, minister directed

PRESIDENT Lungu has directed Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Margaret Mwanakatwe to expedite active participation of the cooperative movement in crop marketing and farmer input activities.
And President Lungu has directed Minister of Agriculture Given Lubinda to ensure the successful implementation of the electronic voucher (e-voucher) system of payment to small-scale farmers to curb thefts of farm inputs.
This is to ensure that the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) limits its role to maintaining the strategic food reserves as part of his administration’s efforts to ensure the country becomes an agro-based economy.
Mr Lungu said the directive is aimed at dealing with some structural issues in the agriculture sector which have been causing pressure to the fiscal position.
And President Lungu said the successful implementation of the e-voucher system is aimed at scaling back on auxiliary costs associated with the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) and support agricultural diversification.
Mr Lungu said the e-voucher system has so far worked effectively and will be rolled out across the country in the next three years if it continues to prove effective.
The President, however, said the e-voucher system has not been effective in Central Province as some civil servants are working to frustrate the system.
“We have a few civil servants who are politically inclined and want to discredit the process and we have identified them. People should not complain and say we are hard-hearted when we fire them. We mean well in all we do and we will not hesitate to separate with anyone frustrating our efforts,” warned President Lungu.
The President said this at State House yesterday during his maiden press conference.
And President Lungu says Patriotic Front administration will continue to ensure that farmers supplying maize to FRA are paid promptly.
He said Government has also ensured reduction in grain wastage and that the country is again likely to have a good harvest with a good rainfall pattern because of the prompt delivery of inputs countrywide.
Mr Lungu also said his administration is targeting to further reduce the prices of mealie-meal to K65 through a special arrangement between FRA and millers which involves the delivery of maize to processing plants.

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