THE Masaiti Farmers Co-operative says the 2018/2019 will be another failed farming season because of the lies from the government. Co-operative chairperson Chisulo Makansha has wondered why the Ministry of Agriculture has continued to use farming methods that have failed.
Makansha has further wondered why agriculture minister Michael Katambo has not started the distribution of inputs by September 1, 2018 as promised.
He said the timing of 2018/2019 was again not the best for the small-scale farmer, especially those involved in maize farming.
“Knowing how the government system operates and going by the experience of the past years, farmers will end up receiving their inputs way after the planting period, leading to low yields and high potential losses. Last farming season’s distribution of inputs, under the E-Voucher system, was chaotic leading to some farmers getting their inputs in January or February, while others never collected any. So it seems the PF are specialists in lying,” Makansha said.
“After this experience, farmers expected things to improve this year by commencing the distribution early enough for them to start planting in good time. For instance, farmers understand that an early planted crop gives them a higher yield and it’s easier to manage in the field than a late planted field. But unfortunately, the PF does not care or maybe they don’t understand the aspect of farming. It is a shame. We will see which farmers they will come to see.”
He said the farmers in Masaiti do not want the E-Vouchrr system because it had failed. Makansha said the PF should just revert to the old conventional way. He said the PF was exposing the agriculture sector to the usual policy inconsistencies.
“The E-Voucher has been frustrated by politicians and technocrats who used to benefit from FISP. Therefore, the ultimate beneficiaries from the reintroduction of the old system will be those with vested interests and not the farmers,” Makansha said.
He said input distribution should have started earlier than September considering the previous seasons’ experiences. And Makansha said the FRA should start buying maize now so that farmers could plan for their inputs while there was time to do so.
“So what will the PF tell the suffering farmers? Here in Masaiti, it is even more painful because the Minister of Agriculture comes from here and he should understand better the challenges of farmers. Here, the only business is farming. But the problem is that the minister has stopped visiting his constituency and he does not know what the farmers are saying,” said Makansha.
“Farmers’ hopes have faded and we are hopeless with farming which is our only source of income because the government is just telling is lies. We call on government and the Food Reserve Agency to start buying the agro produce, especially in their traditional markets. Again, we know that if the FRA starts buying maize late, with their usual delays in payments, farmers will end up receiving their inputs way after the planting period is over.”