Zambia: Govt Releases K95 Million to Pay Farmers

AGRICULTURE and Livestock Minister Bob Sichinga says the ministry has received K95 million from the treasury to pay farmers who sold their maize to the Food Reserve Agency (RFA) in the just-ended marketing season.

Mr Sichinga said in an interview that all the famers who delivered their crop to FRA would be paid this week once the Ministry of Finance released the money.

The announcement comes amid reports of violent protests by farmers in some parts of the country who have been demanding to be paid by the FRA after selling their crop.

More than 200 farmers in Nakonde last week protested over non-payment of more than K2 billion by FRA and threatened District Commissioner Clement Sinyinda with beating if they were not paid.

"It is important to realise that the Ministry (of Agriculture) is entirely dependent on the Ministry of Finance and if there is a delay by the treasury to release the money, then the farmers will be delayed

too, it's not that somebody is sitting on money," Mr Sichinga said.

"The ministry has been releasing the money in bits and we have just received some money now which we are trying to clear the remaining, and I would say that by Friday we would have cleared everybody."

He said his ministry had received K95 million and was working out measures to ensure every farmer was paid immediately.

Though there had been a delay in paying the farmers, the minister dispelled fears that this would derail the farmers' readiness to buy inputs for the 2013/14 farming season.

"This is because the planting period was only launched last Monday and farmers would still be able to buy the inputs after being paid by FRA this week, Mr Sichinga said.

Mr Sichinga apologised for the late delivery of inputs but assured that the process of transporting D-compound fertiliser would be completed this weekend while urea would sent by the end of December.

The Government had targeted to finish the distribution of seed and fertiliser by the end of October but this has not been achieved partly because of the suspension of the e-voucher system which was initially expected to be used.

The distribution of D-compound fertiliser is almost complete save for a few districts in Southern, Lusaka, Copperbelt and Central provinces which had been earmarked for the electronic system.

"Right now people do not need urea, so our concentration is on D-compound and seed so that they can plant, then we will finalise the deliveries of urea," he said.

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