The PF government has run out of money to buy maize and in a trial system aimed at avoiding the looming hunger, a maize/ fertilizer barter system where four 50Kg bags of maize will be exchanged with two 50 Kg bags of fertilizer has been introduced.
Sources from the ministry of agriculture told the Watchdog that the government is scared of protests that may follow the looming food shortages, so they need to have sufficient maize stocks but the treasury has run out of money due to central government’s financial mismanagement.
“The government needs to stock the reserves with grain to avoid hunger but with a bloated cabinet, induced bye elections and other forms of gross mismanagement, the treasury is dry,” said the source.
The source also disclosed that the basal dressing fertiliser (D Compound) will be produced at Nitrogen Chemicals Zambia (NCZ), which was recapitalized at a cost of Kr70.4 million with a prime objective of producing very affordable fertilizer to peasant farmers while the top dressing (Urea) will have to be imported.
Agriculture minister Bob Sichinga announced that the government plans to procure about 500 metric tonnes to meet the national strategic reserves and that the maize/fertiliser barter exercise will be carried out by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA).
This is a complete reversal of the previous exercise where during the Mwanawasa reign farmers were getting 8 bags of fertilizer and maize seed as subsidy.
Farmers need hard cash to pay for children schools fees and other essential commodities. Schools and shops in Zambia do not accept fertiliser as payment for services and goods.