The President of the Zambia National Farmers Union and the Minister of Agriculture,Michael Katambo, accompanied by the new Permanent Secretary met yesterday to discuss operational modalities on how the agriculture sector can be
revamped going forward.
Welcoming the new Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), Mr. Songowayo Zyambo, the Union reiterated its commitment to dialogue and consultation with the MoA as it is the anchor for agriculture development in the country. The duo agreed to create a platform for periodic discussions to take place in a coordinated manner so that there are no surprises on both sides even when the parties agree to disagree.
ZNFU, as a body representing farmers, highlighted some pressing issues which need urgent action by way of consultation and action. Among the issues discussed were: –
1.The importance of uplifting of the maize/mealie meal export ban quickly to enable sales to take place as the country prepares for the next marketing season.
2.The need for Government to prioritize funding for the agriculture sector so that come marketing time farmers will be paid on time and inputs positioned on time at planting time (the Union bemoaned blame being heaped on farmers for poor yields, yet farmers are paid late, and inputs are supplied late).
3.The need for credible data to guide policy decisions (declaring a surplus through the crop forecast then banning grain exports; sending conflicting market signals).
4.The importation of agriculture products taking place at the expense of expanding local production when the country should be harnessing production at all costs.
5.Farmers facing financial distress due to policy inconsistencies and external factors resulting in foreclosures.
6.The tobacco industry,a commodity which is a leading foreign exchange earner is now gripped with uncertainty.
7.New costs imposed by new Statutory Bodies threatening the viability of farming hence the need to reposition the sector for growth.
The Union is confident that a first step has been set and that the platform for dialogue will materialize soon so that the issues are tabled, solutions proposed, and implementation followed through. Meanwhile, the Minister of Agriculture, Honourable Katambo, indicated that he is committed to work with stakeholders so that the sector speaks with one voice.
The ZNFU Public Relations
Kakoma Calvin Kaleyi
MEDIA & PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER