The Center for Trade Policy and Development says the Food Reserve Agency will have a serious challenge in meeting the targeted One Million Metric tons of grain in the 2019/2020 Marketing Season.
In May this year, Agriculture Minister Michael Katambo announced the crop forecast survey results in which the country recorded a bumper harvest of 3,387,469 metric tons in the 2019/2020 agriculture season.
This was an increase from the 2,004,389 million metric tons produced last season representing an increase of 69 percent.
Despite recording a bumper harvest, CTPD Executive Director Isaac Mwaipopo says a recent spot check done by researchers from his Organisation in Kaoma and parts of Chongwe districts has revealed that several sheds are still empty weeks after the FRA commenced the procurement exercise.
Mr Mwaipopo said in trying to identify the challenges, his organisation learnt that several farmers were unhappy with the K110 per 50KG bag price offer from the Food Reserve Agency.
He said despite the Food Reserve Agency promising to buy maize on cash basis, several farmers are still hesitant to deliver grain to the FRA sheds due to lack of trust which could be emanating from the agency’s historical delays in paying farmers.
Mr Mwaipopo has noted that several farmers are now opting to either sale their maize to private buyers who are offering much higher prices or keep the grain until they see improvements on the prices.
He said it is CTPD’s observation that farmers are doubting Government’s pronouncement that it will be procuring grain on a cash basis this marketing season as they appear to think that the Government merely wants to trick them into delivering grain and there after subject them to the usual long delays in payments which causes frustration.
Mr Mwaipopo has therefore recommended that Government should consider relooking at its participation price and seriously consider raising it up to a much competitive price.
He said in the event that FRA is afraid of the cost implications of revising upwards the price, Government can consider the 2020 grain target from one million metric tons to the prescribed five hundred thousand metric tons.
He said there is need to carry out more sensitization on the recent policy directive to pay farmers on the spot in the 2020 marketing season, most of the farmers doubt this
Mr Kambwili said with regards to COVID-19, there is need for more sensitization to be done, several small-scale farmers are not adhering to prescribed guidelines, especially with regards to wearing of face masks.