State assures farmers over payment

MINISTER of Agriculture and Livestock Wylbur Simuusa has assured farmers that they will be paid the K1 billion owed to them by Food Reserve Agency (FRA) in maize supplies before the next planting season.
Mr Simuusa on Monday said the ministry is actively pursuing payment from the treasury with the involvement of the private sector.
He said although Government, through FRA, had budgeted for a strategic maize stock of 500,000 metric tonnes, it ended up exceeding by another 500,000 metric tonnes to protect farmers from unscrupulous grain traders.
Mr Simuusa said farmers were being abused by some grain traders who were offering between K40 to K50 per 50 kilogramme bag of maize instead of the government-set K70 floor price.
“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 a lower rate,” he said.
“If you look at the K400 million that Government has already released to farmers, this represents 60 percent of the budgeted amount. Government has continued releasing funds to clear the farmers and I can assure them that before the on-set of the rains and before planting is under way they will be cleared,” he said.
Mr Simuusa also said Government has received firm inquiries from neighbouring countries on possibilities of maize export.
“We are doing our best to find export market for our farmers,” he said.
Last week, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) said delays by Government to pay farmers will adversely affect the approval of new loan facilities by commercial banks for the 2014/2014 farming season.
And Senior Chief Shakumbila says some farmers in his chiefdom have failed to pay for inputs for the 2014/15 farming season due to the delayed payment of farmers who supplied maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
Meanwhile, Government says it is looking for funds to pay farmers who supplied maize to FRA as soon as possible so that they start preparing for the 2014/15 farming season.
He said farmers are badly affected by the late payment by Government and they are falling to raise money to make a down payment for fertiliser.
He said in Mumbwa recently that most farmers in the district depend on farming as their only source of income.
And farmers will not have money to buy inputs for the 2014/15 farming season, a situation which might lead to low yields due to delayed payments to those who supplied maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), National Union for Small-Scale Farmers of Zambia (NUSFAZ) says.
NUSFAZ director general Frank Kayula said most of the farmers in the country depend on money from the sale of the produce as this is their only source of income.

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