Posted by Benson on October 04, 2017

The Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) has welcomed a number of measures advanced by Government in the 2018 National Budget. This is progressive and should be applauded. We have in particular noted the measures taken by Government to improve agriculture productivity and production.

We are cognizant of the plans that Government intends to take to ensure increased agricultural production and diversification.

We have always called for investments to be made towards strengthening extension services and research. We are glad that Government has responded by saying it will employ 750 extension service workers in 2018. This will help turn around what has characteristically led to poor productivity for both crops and livestock among farmers, especially small scale, as this will trigger the flow of information on agriculture trends and market intelligence leading to improved productivity and production.

We were, however, hopeful that Government was also going to look at investing more into research and technology; which is critical to any country’s agriculture development.  It is also cardinal to recognize that poor productivity also comes from late payments to farmers by the FRA which constrains farmers from taking decisions that can impact positively on their productivity.

The Union was also hopeful, that Government would hedge our budding sub-sectors such as the edible oil industry, dairy and fruits and vegetables sectors, by deliberately effecting policy changes that would regulate imports and spur local production.

We also note the following;

  1. Introduction and development of three farm bloc models in Muchinga, Northern and Copperbelt Provinces;

It is good that Government has identified these new areas, and intends to empower Small and Emergent Farmers with technological transfer and access to ready markets from the models that will be anchored on a core venture, agro processing facilities and smallholder farmers (out growers).

However, there are numerous other farm blocs that are pleading to be finished. Immediate examples include the Nansanga in Central Province, Kanchibiya in Muchinga Province, Litoya in Northwestern Province, Nayantara in Lusaka Province, TBZ in Western Province, Luna in Luapula, Sinazongwe, among others, which are categorized as Brown Fields and require little work to make them functional and immediately contribute to the national dream of diversification and turning the country into the food basket of the region.

A good example is the Nansanga Farm bloc where Government has already spent millions of Kwacha in surveying, modeling, and on physical infrastructure such as roads, electricity and dams. Nansanga is a Brown Field that just needs amenities to kick start projects. There are already Small Scale and emergent farmers that bought or have expressed interest to undertake agricultural activities at Nansanga.

The proposed Green Field models in Muchinga, Northern and Copperbelt Provinces will require full financing, and as such will take much longer to develop and start yielding results.

So why not revisit existing successful Brown Field cases like Nansanga to be developed into a model in 2018?

  1. Facilitation of US$100 million tractor/agriculture equipment assembly plant;

The country needs such developments to take place for the agriculture sector to make meaningful growth. Having a local tractor and agriculture equipment assembly plant will not only create jobs, but also help farmers to access tractors and agriculture equipment at more affordable prices. In turn, this will lead to more farmers being mechanized and propel productivity and production, and food security.

  1. US$40 million Mechanization loan from EXIM Bank of India

85% of Zambian Farmers are small scale and remain un-mechanized. The majority still use hoe in hand technology. The US$40 million loan should be fully implemented as a mechanization Fund with less red tape, encumbrances and clear-cut processes on how to access this fund. A lot of sensitization has to be done on how farmers can access these funds to help them invest in tractors, farm implements and irrigation equipment.

  1. 100% migration of FISP to E-Voucher and Eliminating of Ghost Farmers

Government should be lauded for taking a bold step to roll out the E-Voucher to all districts in the 2017/2018 farming season after facing teething challenges during the 2016/2017 farming season.

Government should, however, be applauded for cleaning the FISP by eliminating ghost farmers and saving K1.0 billion.

We, however, also hold the view, that FISP, should be a system which farmers should graduate from after being empowered and not one where some farmers have been on subsidies in perpetuity.

  1. Measures taken to control livestock diseases and increase and improve livestock breeds is a welcome development

It goes without saying that the majority rural farmers depend on livestock for major investments and poverty reduction. Plans to continue setting up 200 dip tanks and the construction of 4 regional laboratories will help reduce the livestock disease burden on farmers.

The construction of 18 Artificial Insemination (AI) centers will also help improve livestock production and quality of breeds. But we should ensure that trained and skilled manpower is attached to managing the dip tanks and AI centers so that they do not turn into white elephants, hence our call for more investment in research and extension services.

  1. US$50 million Zambia Aquaculture Enterprise Development Project

With dwindling fish stocks in most of our rivers, the US$50 million Zambia Aquaculture Enterprise Development Project meant for building institutional capacity of fish; building hatcheries, fingerlings and feed production and processing facilities is positive from Government. As the country strives to become self-sufficient in fish and become a net exporter, investments in fish farming are welcome.

Again, we call for a clear approach for farmers to access these funds with few, if not no bottlenecks. Information flow remains cardinal to unlocking these funds.

7.            The Union welcomes government move to exempt unprocessed and semi processed tobacco from VAT as this brings the industry to par with other neighbouring countries. Tobacco is a major foreign exchange earner and deserves the support.

Other measures such as the removal of the surtax from certain raw materials is progressive. Our added view on this is that the surtax is too low in some cases such that it does not offer the desired protection to local producers. We have observed this on agricultural products that can be produced locally where the influx of imports has continued e.g. milk, fruits and vegetables, etc. The surtax should be increased on some products. Therefore, consultations with key stakeholders will be critical during the process of identifying the products that will be affected by this measure.

We must add that the removal of customs duty on inputs used in stock feed and fish feed is positive and addresses the added cost that producers have been facing for a long time on inputs such pre- mixes which are a critical additive in stockfeed production.

8.            Rural electrification and feeder roads focus; We welcome the continuous focus on rural electrification and feed road refurbishment. For rural electrification, it will be important to address the backlog of connections to electricity in farming areas. Poor feeder roads are one of the causes for poor farmgate prices hence we appeal for urgency in implementation.

 

 

 

As ZNFU, we look forward to the actualization of the 2018 budgetary measures as this will set a tone to diversifying the economy towards agriculture and realistically making agriculture the mainstay of our economy, and lifting thousands of Zambians out of abject poverty.

To a farmer and in a nutshell, the 2018 national budget can be summed up as a calculative budget with highly selective taxation measures that addresses some of the concerns from the farming community. Hence the 2018 budget passes as a “don’t rock the boat budget”. However, the VAT exempt of most agricultural products will remain a source of added costs because a farmer is taxed before producing anything, where inputs and machinery attract VAT.

 

FOR ZAMBIA NATIONAL FARMERS’ UNION

 

Jervis Zimba

PRESIDENT

 

 

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