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Farmers will be paid when cash is available – Minister

By SIMON MUNTEMBA

GOVERNMENT says it will pay all farmers who supplied maize to the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) but could not state when because “there is no money at the moment.”

Eastern Province Minister, Peter Phiri however said the new dawn government was working round the clock to ensure that farmers were paid as soon as possible.

“I am not going to give the day or date, but as soon as we get the money our farmers will be paid,” Mr Phiri said.

The minister explained the delay in paying farmers was due to lack of funds because the initial budget for 500, 000 metric tonnes strategic national reserves was exhausted.

His remarks follows complaints from some farmers in the region who had supplied maize to the FRA over delayed payment.

Mr Richard Lungu, a small- scale farmer of Chief Mwanjabanthu in Petauke complained that he supplied over 200 by 50kg of maize to FRA in July but has not yet been paid.

“I am one of those that supplied maize to FRA in July but up to now, they have not paid us. They keep on telling us to wait and I don’t know when they will pay us. I have not bought farming inputs because they are holding my money,” Mr Lungu said.

But the provincial minister who admitted that the FRA owed farmers in the province over K318.8 million said they shall definitely be paid.

Mr Phiri also explained that FRA had targeted to buy 100, 000 metric tonnes of maize in the region but due to the bumper harvest an additional 66, 224 metric tonnes was bought therefore stretching the initial budget. Recently, Agriculture Minister Reuben Phiri also told Parliament that FRA was now buying the surplus maize outside the initial budget, because it had already met the 500, 000 metric tonnes for strategic national reserves which was budgeted for.

Responding to a question from Kanchibiya Member of Parliament Sunday Chanda who wanted to know when farmers would be paid, Mr Phiri said they would be paid their money at an appropriate time, without specifying the time frame.

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