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Zambezi Times Online 2004

Govt Had Problems Acquiring Fertiliser, Admits Sikatana

LUSAKA, Feb 4 - Agriculture minister Mundia Sikatana yesterday admitted that government had problems in the procurement and distribution of fertiliser for the current farming season.

Opening up for the first time following a point of order raised by Katuba UPND member of parliament Jonas Shakafuswa that the country was in crisis and that farmers were being held at ransom following non-delivery of urea (top dressing fertiliser), Sikatana said there was a problem which he wished to inform the House but that it was being handled amicably.

"We regret what has happened but I will explain what transpired," he said.

Sikatana said the government gave a contract to Nyiombo Investment which sourced the fertiliser from the Far East.

He said the ship with the last consignment of the commodity was supposed to dock at the port of Dar-es-Salaam [Tanzania] on November 29, 2023 but that did not happen until Sunday January 1, 2004.

"The ship developed a major fault," he said.

Sikatana said he took it upon himself to travel to Livingstone to see the effects of non-availability of fertiliser on the crop, especially on maize, and later drove to Kapiri Mposhi where he was told that fertiliser was finally in Tanzania.

He said on Sunday he physically spoke to some agent official who was in Dar-es-Salaam who assured him that the commodity had finally arrived and was being transported to Zambia via Tanzania Zambia Railways (Tazara).

"I can now confirm we are now in charge and in control," he said.

"The area member of parliament (Kapiri Mposhi) John Mwaimba this morning [yesterday] at 11:00 hours witnessed the arrival of the train with 23,000 by 50 kilogrammes of Urea fertiliser."

Sikatana said with the arrival of the fertiliser, government would be able to save the good crop from the 2003/2004 farming season.

He said government would restore the Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia so that they were not sent guessing when fertiliser consignments would arrive.

Shakafuswa in his point of order asked Speaker Mwanamwambwa if the ministry and the minister of agriculture were in order to remain quiet yet there was crisis in the country in the agricultural sector.

He said a good crop would go to waste due to failure by transporters contracted by government to supply fertiliser.

Shakafuswa said a lot of money would be spent to import maize yet the country had received enough rainfall in the current farming season.

Pemba UPND member of parliament David Matongo said the arrival of the 23,000 tonnes of fertiliser was not an issue.

He said the issue was that the fertiliser was not adequate, that it was expensive and arriving rather too late.

"We commend Sikatana's work to procure basal and top dressing fertiliser and seed but in my view it was an effort in futility," he said.

Matongo said until government started procuring inputs by August, the country would always cry over late delivery of farming inputs.

He urged government to straighten the procurement and pricing of fertiliser.

Matongo said whatever product peasant farmers produced should recover at least 50 per cent of fertiliser and 100 per cent of seed costs.

"I commend Sikatana for his efforts, hard work, but I sympathise with him because certain government decisions have made him to fail," Matongo said.

by Larry Moonze
Source: The Post/All Africa Global Media

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