ABOUT 537, 000 farmers have started receiving inputs under E-voucher, representing 53 per cent of the 1 million farmers that are targeted to benefit in the 2017/18 farming season, E-governance Permanent Secretary Martin Mtonga has said.
And Ministry of Agriculture Permanent Secretary Julius Shawa has said Ministry of Finance has released K50 billion to pay banks for the process while Government had set aside K36 million to combat the predicted army worm invasion during the current farming season.
Dr Mtonga said irregularities that had occurred with banks had been resolved and everyday 10, 000 to 15, 000 farmers were redeeming their cards after paying the required K400 while 80 per cent of the targeted farmers were expected to be reached by Monday next week.
"We have constituted a six man team which is working 24 hours every day, in my office and this makes us confident that by Christmas Day it will be a different story," he said.
He said this yesterday when he featured on a Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) programme 'Morning Live'.
Dr Mtonga said Government had further engaged two financial institutions that were going into far flung areas to ensure that farmers in locations without network could pay offline and immediately access farming inputs.
His office engaged District Agriculture Coordinators (DACO) in various parts of the country to enable farmers understand technicalities of the E-voucher system to reduce challenges faced by farmers in redeeming their cards to access inputs.
Mr Shawa said Finance on Tuesday released K50 billion for banks to accelerate disbursement of funds to agro-dealers while Government had set aside K36 million to combat the predicted army worm invasion during the current farming season.
He said the budgetary allocation for army worms would enable the Government procure 100, 000 litres of chemicals that would help in curbing the worms from escalating in the event of an outbreak.
Mr Shawa said in the face of a looming army worm invasion this farming season, Government was encouraging farmers to venture into crops that were resistant to the crop ravaging worms.
"Government is aware about the menace and we are getting involved. The entire Government machinery is working around the clock to ensure that farmers receive their inputs on time," Mr Shawa said.
He said the current bottlenecks surrounding E-voucher and the anticipated army worm outbreak would not affect food production in the 2017/18 farming season.