The Deputy Minister of Agriculture Paddy Zhanda said last week it was unfair for A2 farmers to continue to look to the government for support especially in view of the current financial squeeze that the country is facing.
Responding to a question by Bindura South legislator Remigious Matangira on what the government was doing in preparation for the 2015-2016 farming season, Zhanda said when people applied for land, especially A2 farmers, they were asked to prove that they had financial resources to carry out commercial farming.
“Government expects A2 farmers to borrow from their banks, also to enter into contractual obligations with contractors who contract A2 farmers for the growing of various crops. Therefore, it is unfair for A2 farmers to continue to look at Government for support especially with the fiscal space limited as it is,” he said.
But Zhanda added that it was not viable for farmers to borrow from banks at interests of 23 to 25 percent per annum. Farmers who had livestock could therefore sell their animals to buy inputs.
Q & A:
*HON. MATANGIRA: My question is directed to the Minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation development. Hon. Zhanda is in the House. We are saying the country is insecure in terms of food security. I want to find out where we are right now in terms of preparation for the 2015-2016 summer farming season. What has been done so far? I thank you.
*THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE (LIVESTOCK) (MR. ZHANDA): Thank you Madam Speaker. I thank Hon. Matangira for that question concerning Government measures concerning the farming agricultural season that is approaching. We all know that we are facing financial challenges, so what the Government has done is that it has realised that it is important for the farmers themselves – Hon. Speaker, if I may go back to speaking in English. When people applied for land one of the conditions was that one would attach…
MR. MATANGIRA: On a point of order Madam Speaker – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections] -. The questions that we ask here in Parliament are not meant for us Parliamentarians, they are meant for the constituencies, meaning the people who elected us. The reason why ZBC is in this House today is for the people to hear – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections] -. My response is that he responds to the question using vernacular so that the people out there can understand and hear for themselves.
THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Hon. Minister asked for permission to speak in English and I think we have been speaking in English nearly every day, so if he is prepared to answer in English please, leave him to answer the question.
MR. ZHANDA: Thank you Madam Speaker. I was saying when people applied for land allocation, one of the conditions which was attached to that application, especially A2 farmers, was that they must attach and exhibit the financial resources to carry all the activities on the farm and most of them did that to prove that they had the financial muscle and resources to carry out activities at the farm when they are allocated land and I want to believe that Hon. Matangira is one of them. Except in A1 and A2 farms where it is recognised that those farmers will continue to want Government support, hence the Presidential Input Scheme which has always been availed every year.
Government expects A2 farmers to borrow from their banks, also to enter into contractual obligations with contractors who contract A2 farmers for the growing of various crops. Therefore, it is unfair for A2 farmers to continue to look at Government for support especially with the fiscal space limited as it is. I thank you.
*MR. MATANGIRA: My supplementary question is, we are not saying that a person should go in his own personal capacity, what I want to know is as a Government, what are we saying about the farmers in the rural areas. It is not about borrowing money because we have title deeds but we are saying the whites who are farming in Zambia are farming on land that is owned by the Zambians who have the title deeds. Why can we not do the same? We are saying if a person has cattle, why not use that as collateral for that person to engage in farming with the bank? Thank you
THE DEPUTY MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE (LIVESTOCK) (MR. ZHANDA): I want to thank the hon. member for his question but it does not follow that if he insures his livestock that will guarantee him access to finance. I would also like to give advice to the farmers that at the moment, the cost of borrowing as well, at the end of the day does not render the issue of viability, if one borrows a 23% and 25%. Therefore, if Hon. Matangira and other farmers who feel have the livestock, my advice is that they should unlock value in their livestock by selling them and buy fertilizers.
One of the issues that Government is also looking at is the issue of capitalization for Agri-bank. I am sure the Minister of Finance and Economic Development will concur with me that it is very high on the agenda on how to capitalize Agri-bank in order for farmers to access borrowing from the bank. I thank you.