Brian Mundubile, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, has expressed concern over the agricultural policies being implemented by the UPND Administration, stating that they could lead to the collapse of the sector. Mundubile’s comments were prompted by the decision of the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) not to purchase soya beans from farmers.
Mundubile pointed out that the UPND Administration had introduced the Comprehensive Agriculture Support Programme (CASP) as an alternative to the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP) previously in place. The new program aimed to diversify the agricultural sector, which had been heavily reliant on maize production. President Hakainde Hichilema and Minister of Agriculture Mtolo Phiri had emphasized the importance of promoting other crops, including soya beans.
The opposition leader noted that President Hichilema had even announced an agreement with China to buy soya beans from Zambia, encouraging farmers to increase their production. Consequently, many farmers had invested significant efforts and resources into growing soya beans, expecting the FRA to provide a reliable market for their produce, just as they had done with maize.
However, Mundubile expressed shock at the FRA’s decision to back away from its responsibility, stating that it would have dire consequences for the agricultural sector. He argued that the motivation for farmers to diversify away from maize would be undermined if they were unable to find a stable market for their alternative crops. Moreover, with agriculture being the largest employer in Zambia, accounting for 70% of the population, the collapse of the sector would have far-reaching implications for both farmers and the wider economy.
Mundubile criticized the UPND Administration for its policy inconsistencies and sudden changes, citing the failures in input distribution and now the collapse of the marketing side of the value chain. He expressed disappointment in the government’s inability to provide a clear direction for the agriculture sector and questioned President Hichilema’s vision for its future.
“We were hoping that the UPND Administration, after their failure with input distribution, would focus on reviving the marketing of crops. Unfortunately, we see that they have now collapsed both aspects of the value chain. This is regrettable, and I am left wondering about President Hichilema’s understanding of where he wants to take the agriculture sector,” Mundubile remarked.