Importation of fertiliser from Saudi Arabia, evoucher progrm uncertain

Editor,

The importation of the 50 000 metric tonnes of fertilizer from Saudi Arabia has been marred with suspected corruption as government has decided to abandon the involvement of private companies in the exercise which would most likely delay the distribution of the input to farmers under the Farm Inputs Support Program (FISP) for the 2013/2014 season. Therefore inadvertently contributing to a reduction in maize production which could further lead to food insecurity in the country as well as the price of mealie meal increasing.

Government is yet to explain to the general public what the cost implications of importing the fertilizer from Saudi Arabia are? With the Christmas season around the corner it is important to note that transport service prices, especially out of the ports have increased and are likely to stay exorbitantly high until the coming year. What saving is government making by importing the fertilizer so late in the year? With the fertilizer being a product of the nation why hasn’t government publicly put out tenders for local transport suppliers to participate in the uplift of the commodity out of Dar-e-salaam into Zambia?

As Zambians not only was the private sector distributing wealth to the general populous by assisting transporters, laborers and the economy as a whole but by government single sourcing the exercise and not making public the modalities of the Saudi Arabia transaction it is again raising questions as to who exactly is involved in sourcing the fertilizer out of Saudi Arabia. Why didn’t other countries yet alone the private sector bid for the fertilizer so that transaction was as transparent as possible for the general populous?

In March this year government announced to the general public that it had introduced new measures of accessing farm inputs which would included the E-Voucher system ontop of the current FISP program?

To date the ministry of agriculture is yet to give the farmers a position on when the program will launch because the minister of Agriculture through various dialogue had categorically stated that by October 2013 the government would ensure that all the farming inputs under the FISP program as well as the e voucher program would be positioned in all the districts before the onset of the rains.

To date, government has not explained to the general public what modalities have been put in place to launch the e voucher, more worrying is that government to date has not put in place systematic measures to help facilitate farmers in the eventuality of the e voucher program not launching.

Districts that will be affectedby the e voucher include Choma, Mazabuka, Kalomo, Mumbwa, Kalomo, Lusaka,Ndola, Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi and Chongwe of which are all food baskets for the region in Zambia.

In conclusion, as a concerned citizen I am requesting/ demanding answers because as a country experiencing 4 consecutive bumper harvests we cannot afford to be a maize importer when we were a net exporter of maize in the region. We as the general public cannot sit back and watch the agriculture sector we worked hard and long to build as a nation go to waste.

KZ

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