Friday, November 25, 2011

Chongwe farmers complain over lack of payments

Chongwe farmers complain over lack of payments
By Gift Chanda in Chongwe
Fri 25 Nov. 2011, 13:20 CAT

FARMERS in Chongwe yesterday complained of not receiving payments for maize sold to the Food Reserve Agency last farming season despite the government releasing the funds.

During the launch of the ZNFU/Zanaco LIMA credit scheme in Chongwe, Chongwe District Farmers' Association chairperson Derranoh Choonga disclosed that some farmers who sold maize to FRA during the last marketing season have to date not been paid.

Choonga requested the government's intervention in the matter so that farmers could be paid and continue producing.

"Some of our farmers have not yet received their money for their maize that they sold to FRA," Choonga said.

"Therefore, we request the government to intervene to ensure that all farmers are paid as earlier as possible to enable them buy their inputs for this farming season."

But agriculture minister Emmanuel Chenda, who was officiating at the same function and could not give reasons as to why some farmers in the area had not been paid, said he did not understand why the farmers had not been paid when the government recently released the funds.

"I must say that am saddened to learn that there are some farmers that have not been paid here in Chongwe," Chenda said.

"I do not know any reason as to why this should be the situation because your government, the Patriotic Front government, released all the money that was due to the farmers in Chongwe more than two weeks ago."

He promised to follow up the matter.

Meanwhile, Chenda called on the private sector, especially commercial banks, to introduce financial service packages that could help farmers access cheaper credit and affordable short and medium term inputs and asset finance.

"The situation of continued limited access to credit and other financing services by our small scale farmers need to be changed," Chenda said.

"Government efforts alone will not be enough to end the current near absence of credit and other financial services to our small scale in particular in the agriculture sector."

He said the private sector should come on board and assist the government.

Chenda said it was pleasing that ZNFU and Zanaco had risen to the challenge by coming up with a farmer led private LIMA credit scheme as one way of addressing the current limited access to credit and productivity enhancing inputs for farmers.

The LIMA credit scheme is a ZNFU-Zanaco driven initiative that allows farmers access credit for inputs on a collateral basis.

Farmers pay up to 50 per cent of the total cost of inputs before the loan is provided and pay the remaining 50 per cent after the marketing season is over.

The scheme has an insurance cover which cushions both the farmer and the bank by 50 per cent against perils such as floods, drought and fire.

ZNFU first vice-president Dave Gordon said the scheme has so far received overwhelming response from farmers since it was introduced.

He disclosed that the loan portfolio under the scheme this year had been increased to K20 billion from K600 million provided three years ago when the scheme was just introduced.

"There has been a massive increase in demand for this programme from farmers countrywide. This is mainly because it serves to supplement the government efforts under the Farmer Input support Programme (FISP)," he said.

"We are well aware that not all farmers can assess the government FISP. In some cases, the FISP may not cater adequately for all the input requirements of a farmer hence private sector led initiatives such as the Lima credit scheme become the only sustainable alternative."

Gordon said the union hopes to review the scheme in future to fund other crops beyond maize.

He also disclosed that the expansion of the programme to cater for other crops has been limited by lack of availability of certified seeds.

"We therefore urge seed companies to expand seed production," said Gordon.

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