21 January 2013

Zambia's Agricultural Sector Pinched By Politics

Operations Manager for Nyiombo Investments Kwazi Dlamini has said it is "malicious and ridiculous" for the Patriotic Front government to allege that the firm has failed to better in the delivery of inputs to the farmers across the country.

But Nyiombo Investments Operations Manager Kwazi Dlamini said his company had not delayed in its distribution since over 90 per cent of the fertilizer and seed was given to farmers already.

"In fact, this year has been the best and the distribution of Urea would be completed by the end of next week, while that of D-compound would be completed by the end of January," he said.

Dlamini said Nyiombo had distributed over 100,000 tonnes of farming inputs in the last three months.

The pressure being placed on companies like Nyiombo is similar to a number of tensions opening up between the farming and food producing industry and the Patriotic Front government of Michael Sata, which has taken a heavy handed approach to high food costs. The most notable development has been the imposition of price controls by the government on maize millers, while others have raised concerns that production will decrease so long as the state is demanding producers to work at a loss.

Nyiombo Investment is one of the firms contracted to supply inputs to farmers for the 2012 to 2013 season but it has come under criticism from the Patrotic Front (PF) government for failing to deliver the goods on time.

Many farmers across Zambia have complained that the company had delays delivering the inputs under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) prompting relevant government officials to pass a vote of no confidence in Nyiombo Investments.

For eight years bow, Dlamini said, Nyiombo had participated in the distribution of inputs and this season had been rated as the best in terms of performance.

Dlamini said delays in taking farming inputs to farmers was caused by civil servants who experienced a lot of inefficiency in their operations and this was coupled by the short period of time given between the awarding of contract and distribution.

"The distribution of fertiliser is not as easy as people think it is because there are issues of rains, storage and transport arrangements. Distribution of 80,000 tonnes of fertiliser in two months is a job well-done for us," he said.

Mr Dlamini it was ridiculous for farmers in Kapiri Mposhi and Kasama to complain against non delivery of farming inputs because these areas had already been supplied with the items.

The Government had awarded Nyiombo Investments a contract to supply 41,185.50 tonnes of D-compound and 52,251 tonnes of urea for the 2012/2013 farming season. However, complaints of late delivery of inputs came from many areas across the country. The PF government went to court to attempt to cut the contract but the move failed to materialize.

The the delicate balance of farming inputs, crop marketing, and maize production are seen as key measurements for political stability for the Zambian government, which has already reportedly experienced occasional public unrest in certain areas due to food shortages and high prices.

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