24 December 2012

Zambia: FRA Payment Switch Right On


THE decision by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to pay the remaining farmers directly by cash will certainly expedite the process as effecting payment through commercial banks has been characterised by encumbrances.

Delays to complete the payment process were partly caused by the farmers themselves who in some cases submitted wrong account numbers.

A horde of farmers were turned away from commercial banks after giving names that did not tally with those obtaining on their national registration cards.

Simply put, the delay was not as a result of inadequate funds but because of inaccurate personal data and administrative hitches between the FRA and commercial banks.

The banks have had to deal with systematic challenges because of the huge number of farmers and the rush associated with the farmers, who are usually in the hurry to get money for inputs.

This sequence of events exerted pressure on the banking system.

One other factor which is worth noting is the capacity or lack of it on part of the FRA to handle such a huge national exercise.

Yes, the FRA has explained in clear terms the bottlenecks in the payments system and also outlined the 2012 payment plan to farmers.

In the 2012 crop purchasing exercise, FRA received 864,991 tonnes of maize, representing about 86 per cent of the targeted purchase quantity.

By December 17, this year FRA had purchased 1,045,897 tonnes of maize worth K1.4 trillion against the targeted one million tonnes.

It is important to appreciate that in the past, such tonnage would be achieved after about four months and in some cases extensions to the marketing season have had to be made to achieve the targeted quantities.

We hope therefore that this has served as a lesson to the FRA and farmers on one hand and the commercial banks on the other.

In trying to beat the deadline and save the farmers from inconvenience, the FRA has now res

olved to start paying farmers by cash through the provincial administration office on the Copperbelt.

From now on, FRA and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock must plan ahead accurately of course, bearing in mind the hiccups experienced in the past year in the marketing system and in the paying of small-scale farmers.

Farmers on the other hand, should avail accurate information to the FRA and commercial banks in future.

In any enterprise, payments and other transactions are conducted through the banks.

Thus small-scale farmers must learn the basic skills of entrepreneurship so that problems in terms of payments do not recur.

We are confident that this week, the remaining farmers will be paid their dues.

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