The Zambia National farmers Union (ZNFU) has urged the Government to be caution in the way it handles the proposal from Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers to ban maize exports so that the country only exports finished products in the form of mealie meal.
In a statement released to the media today, ZNFU said that the country is ill prepared to store the excess maize as it does not have adequate storage facilities where this maize can sit while the process of adding value takes place.
ZNFU also said that the Maize ban will lead to rampant smuggling of maize grain across our borders., loss of revenue to the Central Treasury and loss of maize grain, which will in turn affect national food security.
Below is the full statement
PROPOSED BANNING OF MAIZE EXPORTS
The call on Government by the Zambia Union of Financial Institutions and Allied Workers to ban maize exports so that the country only exports finished products in the form of mealie meal, should be treated with utmost caution and be well thought through.
What we should immediately ask ourselves is does the country have adequate storage facilities where this maize can sit while the process of adding value takes place?
If the Food Reserve Agency buys only 500, 000 metric tonnes in a season, where will farmers, 85% of whom are small scale, going to store their maize? At whose cost?
Will this result in maize grain wastage or not? How will this impact on farmers?
Firstly, Zambia has 458 grain storage units (as at 2010) with capacity to hold 2 million metric tonnes (and a further 98, 000 metric tonnes planned additional capacity). However, of this space only 1.1 million metric tonnes is grain-habitable, while the rest needs major facelift and overhaul.
Government does not have adequate silos to store away maize from farmers, neither is it willing to buy maize off of all farmers, given the FRA’s capacity, both financially and capacity storage. Other silos are in private hands; mostly grain traders.
The storage inadequacies have resulted in the usage of modest technology; slabs, logs and sheds.
While Grain stored in a silo can remain in good condition for a longer period because fumigation and grain management is more effective; holding grain in sheds, on slabs and logs is disastrous and leads to losses of huge proportions associated with deteriorating crop quality due to long periods of outdoor storage, and rotting.
We should also ask ourselves how much shelf life mealie meal has, and how much would be moved at any given time!
Secondly, stopping the maize from being exported would lead to prices crashing further. Already maize prices have tumbled to K1.2/kg.
While this may be good for millers and consumers, it is definitely a stumbling block to the growth of the agriculture sector. Reduced earnings would lead to reduced investments and production, and ultimately reduced processing. Then the country will go back to importing maize.
This would lead to loss of jobs and increased poverty among farmers and rural dwellers. It will also lead to rampant smuggling of maize grain across our borders., loss of revenue to the Central Treasury and loss of maize grain, which will in turn affect national food security.
While it is plausible to think of strategies on how to earn the country the much needed Foreign Exchange, we should, as a country, first address the issues stated above of storage, markets, food security, jobs and the well being of the people producing the crop; the farmers.
FOR ZAMBIA NATIONAL FARMERS’ UNION
Calvin K. Kaleyi
MEDIA & PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER