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‘REDUCE AGRO SUBSIDIES, INVEST IN FARM BLOCS’

By BUUMBA CHIMBULU


GOVERNMENT should reduce the subsidies in the agricultural sector by 50 percent and invest the money which will be saved into the farm blocks.

The reduction should be done particularly from the Farmers Input Support Programme (FISP) and the Food Reserve Agency (FRA), according to the Indaba for Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) Director Research, Anthony Chapoto.

About K7.3 billion has been allocated to the agriculture sector in the 2022 national budget with FISP getting 93.4 percent of the allocated funds.

Dr Chapoto has however recommend that the subsidy programme should be re-looked at, reduce it by 50 percent and allocate the funds to farms blocks which had potential to create 500 jobs for the youth in the agriculture sector.

He stressed that farm blocks offered best opportunities in job creation in the agriculture sector while providing a vehicle for sustainable rural development.

“Let Government help farmers who need FISP and remove those who can stand on their own. If we save some resources from FISP and FRA, we can put it in the farm blocks. They can be well managed small scale farms in the block.

“There are people trained in the agriculture sector and so we could use the savings from FISP and FRA to help create jobs for the youths,” he said yesterday in Lusaka at the IAPRI 2022 agricultural budget analysis meeting.

On FRA, Dr Chapoto insisted that the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) should be reduced saying Zambia did not need it anymore.

“We do not need  more than 300, 000 metric tonnes of maize as strategic reserve. We can use the savings to bolster the social cash transfer programme for the urban and rural poor,” he said.

In response, Finance and National Planning Minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, said the agriculture sector should not be seen as a welfare intervention.

The Minister also said Zambia would by next year have supplementary funding from cooperating partners for development of farm blocks.

Dr Musokotwane explained that the country was currently in active talks with partners such as the World Bank regarding funding for farm blocks.

He indicated that preliminary funding had been out in the 2022 national budget to develop farm blocks.

“We want to have farm blocks with roads, electricity, water and well-coordinated plans,” he said. 

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