10 August 2012

Zambia: Govt Rebuffs Rumours About Satellite Depots

AGRICULTURE Minister Emmanuel Chenda says Government will not reduce the number of satellite depots.

Mr Chenda explained that the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) would instead buy all the maize from small-scale farmers even those without bank accounts.

He was speaking when he paid a courtesy call on senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II.

The minister was in Chongwe for a tour of some satellite depots on Wednesday.

Mr Chenda described as incorrect rumours going round in the area that Government was this marketing season intending to reduce the number of satellite depots from 22 to 10.

He also dispelled rumours that farmers would not be allowed to sell their crop if they did not have bank accounts.

On the bank accounts, Mr Chenda said farmers were not being coerced to open bank accounts as they were free to make a choice.

He explained that farmers were being encouraged to open bank accounts to facilitate smooth receipt of their money from FRA as well as for security reasons.

"The Government has no intention whatsoever to reduce the number of satellite depots. If anything, we would like to increase, funding permitting, so that we make it easier for the farmers to sell their produce.

"The other issue that is related to this is that of payment to the farmers. There is some misinformation that has gone around that we will only be buying from those that have opened bank accounts. That's not correct again," he said.

Mr Chenda, said depots which had not yet been opened despite commencement of the marketing season on July 27, was owing to administrative reasons which FRA was resolving

Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II said she was humbled by Government's gratifying policy statement over the satellite depots and bank account issues.

She, however, said the assurance had come "a little bit late" as some briefcase business executives had taken advantage of the falsehoods to discourage farmers from selling their produce to the FRA, but was quick to point out that Mr Chenda's assurance was "better late than never."

FRA board chairperson Guy Robinson said the agency had in this year's marketing season taken a zero-tolerance stance on corruption and fraud and asked the farmers to act as watchdogs and to report all forms of corruption, warning that those found wanting would be "accountable to the law."

Mr Robinson said the board through management would this year ensure no maize went to waste and that it aimed at buying all the maize soon, by October 15, 2012 to be put in safe storage.

Chongwe Member of Parliament (MP), Sylvia Masebo, was equally elated at Mr Chenda's assurance and encouraged the people in her constituency to sell their produce to FRA as the price was higher than that of the briefcase business executives.

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