Editor's Comment

Farmers deserve return on investment

AFTER toiling for many months, planting seeds, weeding and nurturing crops and finally harvesting, it is that time of the year when farmers expect to reap where they sowed.It is marketing season.
Farmers, in particular those in maize production and other seasonal crops, are eager to offload their produce on the market in exchange for reasonable cash.
Unfortunately it is also at this time that farmers are duped out of their hard work by unscrupulous business people who take advantage of their desperation for money.
The so-called briefcase buyers take advantage of the fact that most of the farmers who are rural-based are in desperate need of money to meet their basic needs.
This is because most of them only have access to an income once a year.
However, whether desperate for money or not, farmers deserve a good deal and reward for their produce.
This is because farming is one of the most laborious sectors which places a high demand for hard work.
Whatever crops farmers produce, there is a lot of time and hard work invested.
Due to the amount of work involved, most farmers are compelled to engage labourers and hire equipment at high costs.
For instance, farmers have to hire workers to help them plant, weed and harvest their crops.
Farming also entails investment into inputs such as seeds and fertilisers, among others.
In cases of disasters like pest outbreaks farmers also have to invest in chemicals and treatment for their crops.
Given the amount of investment that goes into farming, it is only fair that farmers peg their crops at a price that ensures a good return on their investment.
As President Edgar Lungu says, all stakeholders should ensure that farmers are properly remunerated for their produce.
“Given the onset of this season, I wish to call upon all players to ensure that our farmers are properly remunerated. This is the only way we will stimulate increased production, improve farmer incomes and grow the economy,” President Lungu said during the 2018 Copperbelt Mining, Agriculture, Industrial, Networking and Enterprise Expo (CAMINEX).
Indeed farmers need a good return on their investments if they are to increase production, which is key to food security and revenue generation.
Given the good climatic conditions and arable land that Zambia is endowed with, the country is well placed to become a regional food basket and earn the much-needed foreign exchange to spur development.
But this can only happen if farmers are encouraged to continue producing more by rewarding them well through good pricing.
It is also unacceptable that farmers will continue producing food for the country and yet remain impoverished.
Farming, if well supported, is key to improving living standards of people, thereby reducing poverty levels.
Offering farmers unjustifiably low prices is certainly a recipe for perpetuating poverty, especially in rural areas.
Given that we are now living in a technological era, there is need for farmers to move with times by embracing new and advanced ways of farming for increased production.
However, this is only attainable if farmers can raise enough money to meet their basic needs as well as invest in new technologies and equipment.
While appealing to stakeholders such as the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) and Food Reserve Agency to ensure that farmers get a good deal, they too have a role to play.
Farmers must work together through ZNFU and cooperatives to ensure that they do not price their produce too low.

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