The union’s president Jervis Zimba said in an interview yesterday that ZNFU has received reports from Eastern and Southern provinces that farmers are being exploited by private traders who are buying maize at as low as K35 per 50kg bag.
Hitherto, the maize grain was being bought at K80 and above in some parts of the country.
Mr Zimba has written to the FRA requesting for a meeting to review the price of maize so that farmers are not disadvantaged.
“If we fail to resolve the matter between FRA and farmers, we will appeal to President Lungu to intervene,” Mr Zimba said.
He wants FRA and ZNFU to discuss the matter and revise the current price.
Mr Zimba said FRA’s price of K60 is far too short of the cost of producing a 50kg bag of maize which is calculated at K75.
He said farmers should not sell their maize until the price of the commodity is reviewed during a meeting between FRA and ZNFU.
“It’s unfortunate that because of FRA’s decision, unscrupulous maize traders are forcing farmers to sell them maize at K35 in Vubwi in Eastern Province,” Mr Zimba said.
He said the decision by FRA to fix the price of maize at K60 per 50kg bag is frustrating efforts by the head of State to run an agro-based economy.
And Mr Zimba said President Lungu is committed to running an agricultural-based economy but that there are people who allegedly want his policies to fail.
Mr Zimba said all stakeholders in the agriculture sector should support President Lungu’s call for an agro-based economy as he is the father of the nation.
He said there is need for a balanced price of maize which will benefit farmers.
Mr Zimba said if the status quo remains, farmers will have no money next farming season and that this will force Government to import maize.
When contacted for a comment, FRA executive director Chola Kafwabulula said the agency has not yet received the letter from ZNFU.
“I don’t just comment anyhow. I am a technocrat, I have to sit down with my managers and discuss what we will say as FRA,” he said
Zambia is projected to harvest 3.6 million metric tonnes of maize, out of which FRA will buy 500,000 metric tonnes while the private sector will purchase 3.2 million tonnes
Meanwhile, Government says FRA as a player in agriculture is at liberty to set the price at which it will be buying maize from farmers because it is a liberalised industry in which producers can choose where to sell their crop.
Ministry of Agriculture permanent secretary Julius Shawa said in an interview that FRA is just one player in a large market and it announces the price at which it wishes to buy the maize because it cannot buy from everyone.
Mr Shawa said the agricultural market, like any other, has prices determined by forces of demand and supply and that FRA as a player cannot buy from all farmers.
He urged farmers to look beyond the domestic markets and take advantage of foreign ones by exporting their grain as this is even more profitable than selling to FRA.
Mr Shawa said farmers should increase production and export their maize to countries and regions like the Democratic Republic of Congo and East Africa.
He said this will not only ensure food security but the farmers will also gain more by exporting.