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Government urged to pay Agro-dealers.

The Consumer Unit Trust has urged government to focus on addressing major challenges farmers are facing such as the accumulation of arrears and late release of funds to Agro dealers.

Center Programme Officer Ishmael Zulu said according to the Minister of Agriculture Michael Katambo, Government’s debt to agro-dealers currently stands at K781 million up from K384 million before the onset of the 2019/20 farming season.

Mr. Zulu said Government should therefore prioritize payment of arrears and timely release of money to the affected agro dealers in various parts of the country.

‘The Ministry of Agriculture has announced that it will take legal action against agro-dealers that redeemed farmers’ vouchers in the 2019/20 farming season without providing inputs. While indeed this behavior that is not justified, we urge the Government to rather focus their efforts on the larger problem facing farmers which is the accumulation of arrears and late release of funds to agro dealers,” Mr. Zulu said.
He observed that over the past three farming seasons, many agro-dealerships have been providing inputs to farmers on credit and awaiting payment from the Government, much of which has yet to be paid.

Mr. Zulu further said the Centre undertook several monitoring visits in Western and Southern Provinces and discovered that many farmers are traveling long distances and being forced to sleep in corridors outside agro dealerships as they wait for their local agro dealers to receive their money from the government so that they can obtain their inputs.

“Many agro-dealers spoken to, promised farmers inputs based off of commitments made by government in the 2019/20 farming season that agro-dealers would be paid from money ring-fenced from the K400 deposits made by farmers under FISP.

“It is important to note that behind the term “agro-dealer” are people striving to earn a living for their families. The e-voucher in its inception created jobs and improved livelihoods, but with the subsequent late payment by the government numerous agro-dealers have been adversely affected,” he stated.

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