THE Food Reserve Agency (FRA) projects that the maize it will buy this crop marketing season will increase from the initially planned 500,000 metric tonnes (mt) to 800,000 metric tonnes to ensure national food security.
This follows President Lungu’s announcement on Friday that Government would buy more maize from farmers than the initially targeted 500,000mt for strategic reserves.
The FRA will this week disburse over K250 million for paying farmers countrywide for the maize sold to the agency this season.
FRA executive director Chola Kafwabulula said in Chipata yesterday that the agency will buy 300,000 metric tonnes more this year than the previous years.
“We were supposed to buy 500,000 metric tonnes initially but now we have instructions to buy beyond that and our estimation is that we will be able to reach about 800,000 metric tonnes,” Mr Kafwabulula said.
He said FRA will continue buying maize to meet its new target, which has been further enhanced by an influx of farmers who are selling their produce to the agency.
Mr Kafwabulula said since the increase in the purchase price of maize from K70 to K75, more farmers are selling their grain to the FRA than to the private sector.
He added that the FRA’s objective is to ensure national food security and not to compete with the private sector. He said farmers are at liberty to sell their harvest to any other buyers.
“I think the cardinal issue we need to note is food security. Are we food secure as a country? And the simple answer is, yes we are,” he said.
And speaking in Petauke on Saturday, Mr Kafwabulula said the FRA is committed to ensuring that farmers are paid on time and has secured funds to be disbursed this week.
Mr Kafwabulula said farmers in Eastern Province are owed K22 million and that the FRA has so far paid out K15 million.
“Next week [this week] we are expecting to disburse about K250 million to K300 million to pay farmers countrywide. I would like to state that farmers are being paid on time countrywide that is the reason you have not heard them complain,” he said.
Mr Kafwabulula said FRA will maintain the two-week window in which to pay farmers who supply maize to the agency and that all logistics will be put in place to secure the maize.
He said FRA wants to ensure that all the grain purchased is properly secured to avoid wastage through pest infestation, hence the need to inspect the storage facilities.
Mr Kafwabulula said the FRA is buying grain from farmers in far-flung areas and it is important for the agency to not only pay on time but to also ensure that the grain is taken to storage facilities and properly secured.
“We are not allowing the bags to accumulate. The maize is being transported to our depots as quickly as possible. This is being done to avoid wastage through infestation. We can’t buy maize which is worth millions of Kwacha and allow it to go to waste because of improper storage,” he said.
Mr Kafwabulula said the grain has to be bought from farmers before the onset of the rains and that FRA is working with local businesses to transport the maize to its secure depots.
Mr Kafwabulula is in Eastern Province to inspect grain storage facilities and monitor maize buying by FRA.