Irate farmers in Mpulungu district have given government up to Wednesday to be paid their money for the maize supplied to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) failure to which they will lock up the offices of the District Commissioner and District Agricultural Coordinator (DACO).
The farmers, who stormed the DCs offices today, demanded her intervention over the payments for their maize, lamenting that they had gone through untold suffering.
Group spokesperson, Patrick Sikasote, said they supplied their maize to the FRA on 3rd August, 2012 but have not received their money from the agency although they were promised to be paid within two weeks of supply.
Mr Sikasote said the farmers borrowed money to transport the maize to the satellite depots and the money lenders were now pestering them for repayment.
‘’We have incurred huge costs in travelling from our areas to the township because of the promissory notes from FRA. There is also the cost in food and lodging here as we wait for the money which is not forthcoming,’’ he complained.
Most of the farmers complained that they had lost household property including television sets, beds, mattresses and sofas among others to the money lenders because of their failure to fulfil the promise to settle their credits in time.
They also complained of hunger in their homes and failure to send their children to school because of lack of school fees, adding that they were also being evicted from their houses because they were unable to pay house rentals.
The farmers, mostly from Chitimbwa, Vyamba, Chinakila, Kopeka and Mpulungu wondered how they were going to buy fertilizers and other agro-inputs in time if they could not be paid their money now when the rainy season was just around the corner.
They said if the government was not in a position to pay them, they were willing to be given back their maize to supply to other interested buyers locally and in neighbouring countries.
But when reached for comment, both the District Commissioner, Juliana Chuzu and District Agriculture Coordinator, Kennedy Sinkamba, said the money would be paid within two weeks, according to the information they had.
Mr Sinkamba added that from the 1,300 farmers who supplied maize to FRA, only 130 were paid on 22nd August, 2012.
He said the department of agriculture was equally worried by the delay because it was defeating the concept of food security at the household level as farmers were forced to sell their reserves to survive because of lack of money to live on.
A traditional leader in Luapula province has called on government through the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to accelerate the process of paying farmers.
And Chief Chisunka of Mansa district wondered why government was taking too long to the farmers who he said play a key role in boosting the country’s food security.
In an interview with ZANIS, Chief Chisunka, however, praised government for its commitment of offering support to agriculture in his area by establishing satellite depots.
The Traditional leader stated that it was saddening to note that farmers have not been paid their dues especially that the rainy season will soon be approaching and farmers need to prepare for the next farming season.
He further implored government to construct feeder roads that would make it convenient for farmers to ferry their maize produce.
He further disclosed that some parts of Luapula province have started receiving rainfall which very soon will pose a threat to the maize stock if not well secured.
He called on government to critically look at ways of how the maize grain can be safeguarded even as government mobilises resources to pay farmers.