GOVERNMENT says millers’ contracts with the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) will only go up to May this year to enable them purchase maize directly from farmers.
Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda said the FRA would not renew contracts of any of the millers as they were expected to start purchasing maize directly from the farmers.
Speaking during the commissioning of the US$2 million Jambo Milling plant in Ndola on Thursday, Mr Lubinda said Government did not intend to regulate the milling industry, just like any other business, hence the need for the millers not to depend on the FRA.
“Government wants you to operate without interference. Government must not continue to deliver maize to milling companies and as millers you should not expect that you will get raw material from Government.
“The moment you start relying on FRA for inputs, you are asking us to regulate you. If you ask FRA to buy maize and sell to you, be ready for Government to tell you the price at which to sell mealie-meal and that’s not how we want to run this economy,” he said.
Mr Lubinda said Government had provided inputs for farmers to produce maize and that it was the duty of the millers to buy the grain from the farmers.
“My advice to you as Jambo Milling is that because of the fact that Zambian maize is highly sought after in the region, farmers are not going to be given a raw deal.
“They know their maize can fetch high prices and as a milling company you will do well to employ agriculturalists who will support farmers, give inputs to farmers and go into contract farming with them so that they know that maize being produced is committed,” he said.
Mr Lubinda said the price of mealie-meal would not be adjusted upwards, but that Government would work hard to ensure that the price of the commodity was reduced.
“Government is working extremely hard to ensure the prices of mealie-meal go down. We are encouraging millers to be aware that the industry is highly sensitive.
“As you pursue your investment be aware and cautious that any unnecessary movement in the prices shall attract political ramification,” he said.
Jambo Milling managing director Axmed Shile said the firm had invested almost $2 million in setting up the milling plant and employed over 100 people in response to Government’s emphasis on job creation.
In a speech read on his behalf by company board member Carringtone Mabando, Mr Shile said the company’s primary objective was to satisfy the mealie-meal market in Ndola before moving to other towns.
“Certainly, Jambo Milling has an obligation to make positive contributions towards improving the living standards of the people.
“Our deliberate focus as we conduct our business is on attending to the needs of the local market in Ndola,” he said.