Small scale farmers in Mkushi district’s Musakamba ward have expressed worry at the delay by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to pay them for supplied the agency this year.
Speaking for the farmers, Jonas Kufwata of Fibanga area told ZANIS that the delay in FRA payments to farmers is worrisome as money is needed to buy seed, chemicals and other farming inputs.
Mr. Kufwata, who is Village Headman and Chairperson for Misekelo cooperative, said farmers are also paying out wages for human labour and cattle for ploughing.
“farmers utilize the earnings from FRA maize sales to pay their workers, or to hire cows for plough,” he said.
And Benjamin Chanda of Upper Lunsemfwa, said some farmers have resorted to selling off assets such as livestock and various machinery in order to raise money for inputs.
Mr.Chanda of Twisekana Cooperative, pointed out that there is need to acknowledge that small scale farmers depend on rain-fed farming, adding that delay in FRA payments is reducing the prospects of expecting good harvest.
“the longer the FRA takes to pay farmers, we must be mindful that we only have the rain season for few months,” he commented.
He said that farmers are expecting the New Dawn Government to accord this issue some consideration as many believe that this Administration prioritises agriculture.
FRA top officials in the District could not be reached for comment at press time.
Meanwhile, The Ministry of Agriculture in Kalulushi says it this year anticipates farmers to plant over 10, 000 hectares of maize in the district.
District Agriculture Coordinator Davies Kaboboto told ZANIS in an interview in Kalulushi today that last year the district planted 9, 200 hectares of maize, but this year prices have been very fair and there is a readily available market.
He noted that people are planning to capitalize on the opening of markets in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mr Kaboboto said the district will also plant 300 hectares of cassava, 228 hectares of soya beans, 787 hectares of sweet potatoes and 390 hectares of groundnuts.
Mr Kaboboto said the distribution of the maize packs which started in October this year was completed last week.
He has also encouraged farmers to diversify so that they can have various sources of income.
Meanwhile, Mr Kaboboto has appealed to farmers to control the weeds early in this farming season so that they can maintain their high yields.