Sunday, September 23, 2007
By Joan Chirwa
Saturday September 22, 2007 [04:00]
SMALL-scale farmers in Northern Province have asked the government to revisit its decision to allocate 17,000 packs of inputs for the coming farming season under the Fertiliser Support Programme (FSP). Mpika District Farmers Association chairman Henry Chikwanda said farmers in the province were shocked at the drastic reduction in farming inputs for the coming season.
The government has allocated K150 billion in this year’s budget for 50,000 metric tonnes of both compound D and top dressing fertiliser compared to 84,000 metric tonnes of fertiliser distributed the previous farming season.
Out of the 2007/2008 farming season’s allocation, Northern Province will only benefit 17,000 packs.The FSP programme will also provide around 3,000 metric tonnes of seed to the small-scale farmers.
The reduction in input allocation has therefore reduced the number of beneficiaries to 125,000 small-scale farmers across the country for the coming season compared to 210,000 that benefited from the FSP inputs during the last farming.
“The farmers in Northern Province have expressed profound displeasure and extreme shock at the number of fertiliser packs allocated to the province,” Chikwanda said. “The government should seriously and as a matter of urgency reconsider its stand if they are to effectively support the province’s agenda of being the bread basket of Zambia.”
Agriculture and co-operatives minister Ben Kapita in an interview said the reduction in farming inputs to small-scale farmers was not politically motivated, but meant to strengthen the participation of the private sector in input distribution.
“We have unfortunately reduced the input packages for small-scale farmers given under the FSP this year. We are going to have less farming inputs than last year and this is not because it is not an election year but because this is what the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP) say,” Kapita said. “These two documents are on a reducing basis.
As the private sector gets more involved and experienced in getting inputs to farmers on time, so will government intervention reduce. This will not be done suddenly because we are scared of destroying what has been gained in the agriculture sector over the last few years. We want to maintain gains in the agriculture sector.”