THERE are signs that farmers in some parts of the country should brace themselves for another harrowing season in which they are not likely to get some of the agricultural inputs in time.
This is not being fair to the farmers who had hoped that the difficulties associated with the procurement of fertiliser in the last farming season had been ironed out.
At least, that is what the nation was made to believe, that the delivery of fertiliser this time around “would be like a walk in the park.”
What is clear now is that the nation has obviously been taken for a ride, that the delivery of fertiliser will be another nightmare for farmers.
What is even more unacceptable is that Government is solely responsible for the mess pertaining in the agriculture sector.
Government has taken the role of identifying and picking companies that should procure and distribute fertiliser as opposed to leaving the field open to competitors and letting the best and most competitive bidder win the contracts.
The tendering process for fertiliser this year has been a scam in which tenders were floated publicly and cancelled abruptly without convicincing reasons.
The only explanation was that the government wanted only “friendly” companies to be involved in the bidding process even when they did not have the capacity to deliver.
The politicisation of the tendering process has again taken centre-stage with the so-called successful bidders struggling to cope.
Early this week, Chama North Member of Parliament Yotam Mtayachalo disclosed that farmers in Eastern Province had been marooned in their repective districts waiting to collect their fertiliser.
The farmers are being made to lose valuable time camping at the fertiliser depots to wait for the commodity.
Government was expected to have learnt valuable lessons from the chaotic manner in which the fertiliser distribution programme was done.
The nation is again experiencing some companies contracted to supply fertiliser failing to meet the deadlines as contained in their contracts.
The Ministry of Agriculture has for the 2023/2024 farming season awarded eight companies contracts to supply, deliver and distribute Urea fertiliser on the Copperbelt, Eastern, Luapula, Muchinga, North-Western, Western, Northern and Southern provinces.
The eight included Bestmead, Agrizam, Agrotrade, Kovenant, Greenfield Commodities, Portland Commodities ETG Input Zambia and Alpha Cpmmodities after back and forth cancellation of tenders.
But as of this week, after the lapse of the October 31 dealine for delivery and distribution, Agrizam is for example yet to meet its contractual obligations, a repeat of what had transpired last farming season.
And like history repeating itself, Government last farming season, had ordered Agrizam Investment Limited to quicken the process of delivering fertiliser in full by November 30, 2022 as stipulated in the supply contract after the company had failed to meet the dealine.
Will the Ministry of Agriculture go through the process again and send reminders? It appears as though experience is not the best teacher in this instance and that is unacceptable.
Farmers deserve better service delivery.