President Edgar Lungu has said that the decision to peg the market price of maize at K60 per 50kg by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) was not made by him but the Agency alone.
Speaking when he conducted a pre-tour of the stands at the 91 st Agriculture and Commercial Show, President Lungu said he will not intervene to adjust the maize market price this time around and took the opportunity to call on Zambians to export the excess maize.
President Lungu said local entrepreneurs should take advantage of the bumper harvest and liberal market to trade and export the commodity to other countries such as Kenya and Tanzania for their businesses to grow.
The President said neighbouring countries are awash with market opportunities for the maize crop.
Farmers are saddened that Government, through the FRA, can announce the price of K60 per 50kgs bag when the cost of production is far much higher. Farmers have therefore, placed their hopes in the Zambia National Farmers’ Union (ZNFU) as their mouth piece to renegotiate with government over the pricing.
In Mumbwa, farmers have expressed disappointment at the prices of maize and soybeans which have kept nose-diving and in turn affecting their incomes A check at Badat, which is the largest grain buyer in Mumbwa, found prices of maize had reduced from K55/50kg bag to K52/50kg bag and soybeans from K115/50kg bag to K110/50kg bag. This development has worried farmers saying the cost of production was higher than the prices the commodities are being pegged at. Another check at NWK ginnery, which previously was buying at K60/50kg bag of maize, found reduced prices of K55/50kg bag.
In Solwezi, despite the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) beginning its maize marketing on 1st August 2017, no farmer has so far supplied any single bag of maize to the FRA. This is because the farmers are not happy with the pricing of K60 for a 50 kg bag of maize. On the other hand, some buyers who were buying a 50 kg bag of maize at K70, reduced
the price to K60 per 50 kg bag immediately the Agency announced the price of K60. A check conducted on Wednesday by ZNFU at FRA main shed found a dreary situation with stranded looking deport supervisors with their scales and empty grain bags.
Farmers who visited the ZNFU office vowed not to sell their produce to the Agency if they maintained the K60 price. Farmers also complained bitterly saying maize farming was no longer an attractive business venture looking at the high cost of inputs and challenges encountered during this just ended farming season like Fall Army Worms and Red locusts. Farmers appealed to ZNFU to help them find alternative profitable markets.
In Mutunga Camp Northern block of Katete, Eastern Province, farmers on Tuesday expressed displeasure with FRA’s low Market price. This was during a camp agriculture committee (CAC). Farmers also complained of long distances to the new depot as the only depot in the camp has been shut. There are no private buyers in the area as the road and geographical terrain is very bad. The camp boasts of high production of maize, soya beans and cotton. The major markets for this camp are FRA and cotton companies. But cotton companies such as NWK and Cargill are only buying cotton in the camp leaving over 2000 farmers stranded with markets for maize. The CAC appealed to ZNFU to help farmers in the camp with better markets, saying if it means the whole camp joining ZNFU to access better markets they would do so without hesitation.
In Kasama, farmers are stranded with maize due to lack of maize market following the announcement of low buying price of K60 per 50kg by the FRA. Most farmers have held on to their crop waiting for FRA to adjust the price upward or sell to any buyer who can offer a reasonable price. Farmers have since challenged FRA to explain the logic behind the reduction of maize price as the price of inputs and replanting was very high.
In Mbala District, farmers are still anxiously waiting for the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) to review the maize price. The K60 FRA maize price has brought about panic and anxiety
among farmers. Some private buyers have taken advantage of the low FRA market price and are offering farmers as low as K 55 per 50 kg bag of white maize on cash basis, which many farmers are saying is just a drop in the ocean. A random survey conducted in some selected Information Centres, found that farmers are longing to know if the Agency will make any adjustments to the maize price for the 2017 marketing season.