VIOLET MENGO, Parliament
MINISTER of Agriculture Given Lubinda has told Parliament that Government has increased its support per farmer from K1,000 to K1,700 per pack.
Mr Lubinda said the move is aimed at ensuring that farmers benefiting under the electronic voucher system are not disadvantaged compared with those under the farmer input support programme (FISP).
He said all the farmers who have already paid their contribution and have had their cards activated will receive a top-up of K700.
â€œSo far, the Treasury has released all the budgeted K241 million meant for the government contribution, the farmerâ€™s contribution remains K400,â€ he said.
The minister said this in Parliament in a ministerial statement on progress made to the implementation of the electronic voucher system.
The ministerial statement was necessitated by a question from Mazabuka Member of Parliament Garry Nkombo (UPND), who wanted to know the operations of the electronic voucher system.
He said to ensure that farmers are supplied with genuine inputs, a total of 202 agro-dealers and input suppliers have been registered on the programme.
â€œThese agro-dealers are already delivering inputs to farmers in the participating districts. Farmers are free to buy inputs of their choice from any of the registered agro-dealers and input suppliers that are nearer to their communities,â€ Mr Lubinda said.
The minister said out of the 214,000 targeted farmers, 217,123 had been submitted as of November 27 and out of the forwarded names, 200,181 cards have been printed and delivered to the ministry.
He said a total of 180,491 cards have been issued to beneficiary farmers while 23,398 cards have so far been activated and farmers are accessing inputs using the cards.
â€œDistribution of cards is currently ongoing in all districts and is expected to be completed by December 10, 2015. The activated cards will be active until December 31, 2015,â€ he said.
He urged all farmers to ensure that they use their cards before the deadline.
The minister said farmers have been slow at making their contribution and this has led to the low number of cards that have been activated.
And in another ministerial statement, Mr Lubinda told Parliament that FRA bought 596,193 metric tonnes of maize and 68.2 metric tonnes of rice.
K894.3 million has been released to pay farmers for the crop they sold to the agency.
â€œOf this amount, a total of K646.8 million was released earlier and paid to the farmers. The balance of K247.5 million has also been received by FRA and is now being disbursed to various districts to pay off farmers,â€ Mr Lubinda said.
And Minister of Higher Education Michael Kaingu has told Parliament that the first safety trials for the Sondashi Formula will be conducted following the production of 23,000 capsules required for the trials.
Dr Kaingu said the second trial, which scientists call an efficacy trial, will be carried out later.
â€œThis is the trial which will tell us scientifically whether the Sondashi Formula works in humans or not,â€ Dr Kaingu said.
VIOLET MENGO, Parliament