Editor's Comment

Payments system needed for maize farmers

THE 2014/2015 farming season is on the horizon, and the farmers are already in the farming mood.
But to many of them the prospect of rains catching them unprepared is causing them sleepless nights.
The reason is that they have not been paid for the maize they have delivered to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
Last week the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) said the delay is likely to affect the farmers’ capacity to benefit from credit facilities offered by commercial banks for the 2014/2015 farming season.
And during this year’s Kwanga traditional ceremony of the Ng’umbo people in Lubwe, Samfya district early this month, five chiefs complained that farmers in Chifunabuli Constituency have not yet been paid.
government says it owes maize farmers K1 million and that it will settle the debt before the onset of rains.
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Wylbur Simuusa assured the nation on Monday that government will soon pay the farmers so that they can prepare for the next farming season.
He was reacting to complaints from various parts of the country that many farmers who delivered maize to FRA have not yet been paid.
But, as the minister explained, the issue is not a simple one.
It is important for the farmers to appreciate some of the difficulties that have been hampering government’s efforts to clear the debt.
government, through FRA, budgeted for the purchase of 500,000 metric tonnes of maize for the national strategic reserves.
But because of unforeseen circumstances it ended up accepting an additional 500,000 tonnes to protect vulnerable farmers from unscrupulous traders, some of who were offering them K50 for a 50 kilogram bag instead of the government floor price of K70.
This has put unanticipated pressure on the national treasury.
It is in this context we feel the minister was appealing to the farmers for patience.
“We are appealing to our farmers to be patient as we look for the money. We went over the budgeted-for stock and bought the extra maize instead of leaving the farmers to the whims of these grain traders who want to buy maize at lower prices,” Mr Simuusa said.
He said government has already released K400 million for the farmers, which represents 60 percent of the budgeted amount.
Mr Simuusa said government has continued releasing the money and that before the beginning of the planting season the farmers will have been cleared.
This is the assurance the farmers would like to hear.
Already, some of them are failing to pay for the subsidised inputs, especially fertiliser, because they expected to do so with the money from FRA.
We urge the farmers to be a little more patient as the government makes serious efforts to find the money to pay them.
They should understand that the delays are not deliberate.
The fact that Government has already released K400 million out of the K600 million budgeted for is enough proof of its commitment to their welfare.
It will be in the national interest to motivate the farmers to produce even more maize in the coming planting season.
And one way of motivating them is to pay them for the maize they may have delivered to FRA.
The government understands the important role the vulnerable but viable farmers have been playing in the country’s food security.
But we would also like to point out that there is a need to overhaul the entire maize marketing and payment system.
The private sector should play a bigger role in securing the harvests and ensuring the farmers are paid on time.

Facebook Feed