President Rupiah Banda has directed the Stock Monitoring Committee under the Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives (MACO) to work closely with the Central Statistical Office (CSO) in ensuring that correct information is reported and passed on timely and accurately to the government on available maize in the country.
President Banda warned that those found not to be accurately reporting their stocks will be dealt with accordingly in accordance with the provisions of the law.
Mr. Banda said this in Lusaka today when he commissioned the refurbished U$D2.2 million (K10 billion) Food Reserve Agency (FRA) Mungwi depot which has a grain silo capacity of 15,000 Metric Tonnes.
He said government would release additional funds to rehabilitate the five other silo depots in Chisamba, Kabwe, Kitwe Monze and Ndola that closed in 1999 due to rampant vandalism and lack of regular maintenance works.
He said government is committed to agriculture development in the country adding that government will rehabilitate other selected FRA stronghold storage depots to contain 97,000 MT at cost of U$D11.6 million from across the country.
President Banda, who also officially launched the 2009/2010 crop marketing season said farming is critical to enhancing food security at national and household levels hence government will invest heavily in infrastructure in rural areas, and weigh bridges rehabilitated to boost crop production in agriculture in the country.
He said government is saddened by reports on account of poor storage facilities leading to the grain rotting and the reason why government is encouraging good crop handling practices is encouraged to increase the crop production because Zambia has got the potential to produce more food to sustain herself and export the surplus grain to its neighbours.
Government engaged a Zimbabwean engineering firm to rehabilitate the FRA Mungwi silo depot.
He said last year, the FRA released K650 billion from the 800,000 MT of maize bought from the farmers.
He called on the private sector to take up the marketing system from farmers while the FRA goes afloat in rural areas concentrates on stocking only the grain for strategic reserves for the nation.
Mr. Banda appealed to the FRA to disburse the funds timely to the farmers so that all the grain is captured adding that government wants to change/improve the livelihood of the farmers.
The President further appealed to the private sector not to take advantage of the absence of the FRA in rural areas thereby purchasing the grain cheaply and distorting the price of both maize and meali-meal instead of the set K65,000 floor price per a 50 kilogram bag of maize.
Speaking earlier, FRA Chairman Constain Chilala said the Agency is scouting for U$D15 million from government to rehabilitate the five remaining silos in five districts namely Chisamba, Kabwe, Kitwe Monze and Ndola.
Mr. Chilala bemoaned the vandalism in districts but that the Agency has increased the number of satellite depots from two to seven in every district as well as opened up new storage depots in selected districts across the nation to enhance food security in the country.
He said the Agency will reject and not buy the maize that do not meet the minimum standards such as below 12.5 percent moisture content and advised agencies appointed by the FRA to adhere to that.
And Minister of Agricuture and Co-operatives Dr. Brain Chituwo said government intends to reverse the shift in crop production from the Northern region to a situation where it will be evenly produced. Currently, to the the weather pattern, the southern region is yielding low in crop production.
Dr. Chituwo said government has recruited more extension Officers in his ministry so that new technology in farming is transferred unto the farmers.