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LUSAKA (Reuters) – A Zambia farmers group said on Tuesday it plans to raise white maize output to 5 million tonnes in three years from 1.2 million tonnes if the government provided more subsidized seed and fertilizer.

At the same time, Zambia’s government said it had increased the country’s fertiliser subsidy fund to 492 billion Zambian kwacha in 2008 from 185 billion kwacha.

“With good government support for small scale farmers, we can easily reach 3.0 million to 5.0 million tonnes within two to seasons,” Zambia National Farmers Union (Znfu) president Guy Robinson told Reuters.

“As farmers we are ready to achieve this, but the government needs to support our efforts.”

Finance minister Ng’andu Magande separately told state media in eastern Zambia that the government would provide subsidized seed and pesticides to 200,000 small scale farmers in 2008 compared with 125,000 farmers last year.

Robinson said several small scale farmers had started to produce three tonnes of white maize per hectare through conservation farming but that most of the over 800,000 small scale farmers still required fertilizer to have good yield.

“We have a few farmers producing 5.0 tonnes per hectare but a number of them could reach that target with proper extension services from the government,” Robinson said.