Government has so far spent K604 Million towards the e-voucher Programme. And government has said it will blacklist all agro dealers that have formed cartels to inflate input prices aimed at exhausting the money in the farmers’ e-voucher cards.
Agriculture Permanent secretary Julius Shawa told the National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) in a briefing that the ministry expects all farmers with the E-voucher Programme to have swapped and gotten the inputs by mid-February this year.
“So far, all the districts under the 2016-2017 e-voucher Programmes have received the cards,” Mr. Shawa revealed
Mr. Shawa said as at 25th January, 2017, a total number of 367,157 cards had been submitted to banks for loading and activation out of which, 324,271 cards, which is 88.3%, had been loaded and activated with only 42,886 cards awaiting activation.
Mr. Shawa disclosed that government is remaining with a balance of K420 Million to complete the amount required for the e-voucher Programme.
He explained that the ministry was working with the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) and MUSIKA farmers in the implementation of the E-voucher Programme.
Mr. Shawa further said that the delayed release of funds for cards production and loading has been a challenge, which has led to the late production and delivery of cards to the districts.
“Staff capacity, internet connectivity and the increased prices of fertilizer by the agro dealers have also been some of the challenges,” he said.
Mr. Shawa said other challenges included the slow pace at which the farmers were depositing their money and the inadequate supplies of fertilizers to agro dealers due to high demand.
He however explained that going forward, the ministry would engage with the big fertilizer suppliers to make sure that they offload as much fertilizer as possible to the agro dealers on the Programme as well as on the open market.
Mr. Shawa said despite challenges, most farmers appreciated the e-voucher and applauded the government for the Programme, adding that government would do everything possible to address the hiccups.
He said government would meet all stakeholders in the second week of February, 2017, to review the performance of the e-voucher Programme and mark up the best way forward.
And Mr. Shawa expressed disappointment at some agro dealers who have taken advantage of the e-voucher Programme to increase input prices and deprive farmers from achieving maximum benefits of the Programme.
“The guidelines are clear in the memorandum of understanding between government and agro dealers, that they are not allowed to inflate figures,” he explained.
“We will take stock of all agro dealers taking part in the Programme, and we will blacklist those that are forming cartels to inflate prices.” – NAIS