Farmers threaten to quit maize production
FARMERS have threatened to abandon maize production next year should the government decide to reintroduce grain levies.
On Wednesday, local government minister Nkandu Luo reiterated that the government was looking at ways of reintroducing the grain levy which was removed in 2009.
The grain levy is a form of tax charged, normally by the councils, on anyone transporting grain from one district to another.
During a livestock field day held at Moomba farm in Choma on Thursday, farmers through their representative body, the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU), strongly rejected intentions by the government to reintroduce grain levies.
ZNFU president Jervis Zimba who spoke on behalf of the farmers, said it was not necessary to bring back grain levies.
Zimba argued that grain levies were mere additional costs to farmers and when they are collected, benefits do not accrue to the agriculture sector.
"Bringing back the grain levy has serious repercussions on the agriculture sector," Zimba said amid applauds from farmers.
He wondered what impact the levies would have on the agriculture sector if they were to be introduced this time because they failed to benefit the sector before they were removed.
"What benefits did you farmers get when you were paying grain levies to the councils? All we used to hear was that the councilors have increased their allowances and are driving luxurious vehicles yet my grandmother in the village who is farming is sleeping in a grass thatched hut and walking to town on foot," he said.
"We farmers have got to be united in this country more than ever. The challenges ahead of us are too many. His excellence the President Mr Michael Sata said he wanted to put more money in the pockets of people, now these people the government want to remove the money again from farmers' pockets. I don't know why we farmers have got to keep suffering."
Zimba said reintroducing grain levies would just add to the numerous challenges farmers face which range from delayed payments by the Food Reserve Agency to exploitative prices by traders.
Agriculture deputy minister Brigadier General Benson Kapaya, who was officiating at the same event, ignored to comment on the concerns raised by the farmers but instead quickly detailed programmes the government was implementing to help revamp the livestock sector.
Brig Gen Kapaya also pledged government's collaboration with farmers, the ZNFU, in improving the livestock sector.
Meanwhile, the joint government investigations team has formally charged and arrested seven depot and co-operative employees for theft by agent contrary to section 272 and 278 of the Penal code, Cap 87 of the Laws of Zambia.
Joint investigations team public relations officer Namukolo Munyeme Kasumpa stated yesterday that Berlington Sikazwe, 60, and Fred Kalumbi, 50, both of Ntungo Village, chief Tafuna's area, Mbala district in their capacity as chairman and vice-chairman of Ntungo Co-operative, respectively, who are official buyers of maize had failed to account for 612 by 50 kilogramme bags of maize valued at K39, 780,000.
Kasumpa stated that in the same vein, a motor vehicle, Fuso Fighter Registration number ALC 2743 had been seized from Joseph Kalenga, chairman of Kavungo Co-operative in Mbala district in relation to theft of FRA maize at Kavungo depot.
She stated that Kalenga was currently on the run.
Kasumpa also stated that Steven Musinga Simukawanga, a depot buyer of the same Kavungo depot had also been charged with theft.
She stated that in the same maize scam, a transporter owning a company called Visi Transporters, engaged by FRA to transport maize from different depots in Mbala district had failed to account for 503 bags of maize valued at K32.6 million which were loaded from Kavungo and Kamuzwazi Satelite depots in Mbala district.
"Mr. Victor Siame aged 40 from Mwengo Village and owner Of Visi Transporters is said to have engaged his relatives by the names of Joachim Siame aged 42, Felix Siame aged 33 and James Siame aged 30 as drivers who diverted the 503 bags to a house number eight in messenger compound belonging to Mrs Clementina Nayame who is a sister to Siame. Of the 503 bags, a total of 94 bags of maize have been recovered by the investigations team," stated Kasumpa.