By Blessings Mpinganjira:
The Agriculture, Natural Resources and Climate Change Cluster has threatened not to participate in Committee of Supply debate during the 2021/22 National Budget deliberations if the Finance Ministry will not provide K95 billion to Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) for the purchase of maize.
Admarc, which has a shortfall of K75.5 billion, has K7.2 billion in its coffers and has only managed to use K1.5 billion to purchase maize.
Admarc needs K82.7 billion to enter the produce market this year.
The committee took the stand following the government’s recent position that the grain marketing body should obtain a loan from local financial institutions only, even though Admarc planned to borrow funds from foreign money lending institutions.
Agriculture, Natural Resources and Climate Change Cluster Chairperson Werani Chilenga said the cluster had recommended that Admarc be funded through Parliament in the vote of the Ministry of Agriculture to the tune of K95 billion.
The funds would be used for purchasing maize and other farm produce.
“We have trashed the idea that Admarc should borrow money from local banks to purchase maize as this will cost Admarc K10 billion in interest rates and they will realise a profit of only K1 billion, which is unfair,” Chilenga said.
Admarc Board Chairperson Alexander Kusamba Dzonzi admitted that the corporation was failing to purchase maize from farmers due to financial challenges it was facing.
“We currently have K7.2 billion against K82.7 billion that is required to purchase 400,000 metric tonnes of crops from farmers and we have currently used K1.5 billion to purchase maize in the Southern Region,” Dzonzi said.
Principal Secretary for Agriculture Erica Maganga said the guidelines put forward by the committee would be considered.
Recently, Admarc unveiled an ambitious business plan to purchase at least one million metric tonnes of maize and develop value chains of other farm produce in the hope that it would attract foreign buyers.
This was expected to be financed through a low-interest foreign loan worth K425 billion.