Zambia’s maize harvest for the 2010/11 marketing season is likely to fall from output of more than 1.9 million tonnes expected this year because of low, unsustainable maize prices, an industry official said on Monday.
Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) President Jervis Zimba said the maize price had dropped from about $285 per tonne at the end of March to $249 per tonne as of May 11 after Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) offloaded maize onto the market to keep prices low.
Zimba said farmers were failing to find a market for their irrigated maize which required huge investment in drying facilities as it was normally harvested between March and April with very high moisture content.
“The future of both early maize production and rain-fed maize production hangs in the balance,” Zimba said in a statement.
Zimba said production costs were rising owing to a hike in fuel prices and a planned increase in electricity tariffs.
Maintaining the price of maize below the cost of production would hurt future production, he said.
“Should this situation remain (unchanged), maize production will drop drastically next farming season and the country risks having to return to importing maize,” Zimba said.
He said there was a need to adequately fund the FRA so that it could participate more effectively in the market in buying excess crop which was depressing the price of maize.
Zambia plans to export between 50,000-80,000 tonnes of maize this year but Zimba urged the immediate export of up to 178,000 tonnes of 2009 carry-over stocks to ensure better local prices for this season’s crop.
Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane told Reuters the government was presently not in a position to allocate additional resources to the FRA but may do that next year.
Musokotwane said the government would consider additional maize exports to protect the local grain industry.