The Agriculture Committee of Parliament on Thursday sent back a delegation from the Ministry of Agriculture which was summoned to appear before it to explain the Affordable Input Programme.
Chairperson for the Committee, Sameer Suleiman, confirmed the development, saying the committee was not impressed with the representation from the ministry.
Suleiman said the committee wanted top level representation from the ministry in the form of the Principal Secretary, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry.
“We were told that the Principal Secretary was not around and we were even not impressed with the reasons behind her absence. We therefore, sent back the delegation until they come with the Principal Secretary.
“We wanted to send a strong message that as a committee, we are serious on issues of food security. We can even summon the minister to appear before us,” Suleiman said.
He noted that the committee wants the government to explain how it will implement the Affordable Input Programme since it is a new initiative.
“Being the first meeting for the PS to meet the committee, we thought that she should have made herself present,” Suleiman said.
He said the committee is fighting for 20 percent of the national budget to go to the agriculture sector, considering that the local economy is agrobased.
According to Suleiman, agriculture currently gets about 15 percent of the national budget.
“As a committee we made a pledge last year that at least 20 percent of the national budget should go to the agriculture sector so that we improve in our food production which could also improve processing and value addition,” Suleiman said.
He said the committee has asked the ministry to meet it before Parliament starts sitting on Friday.
The Tonse Alliance Government has brought in the Affordable Input Programme which will benefit about 4.2 million smallholder farmers, by among other things, making available a 50 kg bag of fertilizer at K4,495.
The Affordable Input Programme replaces the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which government has been implementing over the years.
Principal Secretary for Agriculture, Erica Maganga, was not immediately available for comment.