ALL input suppliers and agro dealers found exploiting farmers either through exorbitant prices or indeed fake or expired inputs will be dealt with sternly, President Edgar Lungu has warned.
President Lungu said this in Choma district yesterday during the launch of the electronic voucher system under the Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP).
The launch of the e-voucher system is meant to revolutionize the way Government distributes inputs to farmers.
President Lungu said Government had provided direction and had put in great effort to ensure that funds were available and the programme was implemented successfully.
The e-voucher system would be piloted in 13 districts and later rolled out across the country.
The districts benefiting from the initiative are Chisamba, Chibombo, Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi, and Mumbwa in Central Province, Ndola on the Copperbelt, Chongwe in Lusaka and Chikankata, Choma, Kalomo, Mazabuka, Monze and Pemba in Southern Province.
President Lungu said the 13 districts chosen had a relatively well developed agro-dealer network, better mobile network and were involved in crop, fisheries and livestock farming.
“As a start, the programme will target a total of 241,000 small-scale farmers in the selected districts during the 2015/2016 agricultural season,” he said.
President Lungu said it was the intention of Government to roll out the e-voucher system to more districts and to cover more beneficiaries in the 2016/2017 agricultural season and beyond.
“It would, therefore, be a shame if the private sector did not reciprocate and apply equivalent effort,” he said.
The Head of State said the instant payment to suppliers and agro-dealers was a major shift from the conventional FISP where suppliers have had to wait for several months before being paid.
He said the suppliers had indicated that delayed payments by Government were factored in and had led to the high prices charged under the conventional FISP.
“I therefore expect that the prices charged under the e-voucher will be more competitive and will not rise unreasonably. I expect the e-voucher programme to be implemented with minimal setbacks,” President Lungu said.
The Head of State urged the provincial and district administration and the traditional leadership to closely monitor its implementation and support the Ministry of Agriculture in ensuring that challenges if encountered were dealt with speedily.
“I wish to encourage all the beneficiary farmers to take advantage of this new system and purchase inputs of their choice in a timely manner. This should in turn help in improving agriculture productivity in the country,” he said.
President Lungu said Government was through the e-voucher actualising decentralisation by moving decision-making on the type of inputs to procure from national headquarters of the Ministry of Agriculture to the farmers, adding that power was being given to the farmers to purchase inputs of their choice.