The Zambia National Farmers’ Union has discovered a scam where some civil servants; including Camp Officers and District Commissioners have been threatening farmers of being blacklisted from accessing FISP if they do not sell their maize to the Food Reserve Agency.
ZNFU President Jervis Zimba says the Union is also investigating reports where millers have been instructed not to buy maize at a price beyond what the FRA is offering of K110 maize for a 50kg bag at farm gate.
Mr Zimba says this is detrimental to a free market economy and amounts to indirect price controls.
He has challenged the Ministry of Agriculture and the FRA to come clean and state their position on this matter.
Mr Zimba said although FISP is a social cash transfer meant to help vulnerable but viable farmers with inputs, what the FRA is doing is injecting more poverty in farmers with their pricing mechanism as farmers are being forced to accept a poor price.
“We know that the FRA is having challenges to buy commodities from farmers. We also know that the Agency will not meet its target to mop up 1 million metric tonnes because of its pricing regime, but using streetwise methods to bully farmers into taking a derisible price offer is unacceptable”, said Mr Zimba.
He said the Food Reserve Agency and the Ministry of Agriculture should realize that not all farmers produced maize using a FISP system.
Mr Zimba said based on the projection of 3.3 million metric tonnes expected to be produced this season, it shows that 2 million metric tonnes was grown under FISP while 1.3 million metric tonnes was produced by farmers with own resources.
“We risk pushing these independent small scale farmers into bankruptcy if there is insistency and unwritten directive to force a bad price on farmers. What should be known is that to cultivate a hectare, a farmer uses 4 bags of urea, 4 bags of D Compound or basal dressing and 25kg of seed. Which means a farmer will need about K5, 000 to meet this input cost while there will be other operational costs”, he added.
Mr Zimba said to be able to invest in another season, a farmer will have to sell 45 to 46 x 50kg bags of maize on the FRA price.
He has questioned the whether it is new policy that if a farmer gets FISP support, a social cash transfer, then it is mandatory that that farmer sells their produce exclusively to the FRA or risk being blacklisted.
Mr Zimba said the Ministry of Agriculture should state its position on this matter because the Union has evidence where some Camp Officers and DCs have been telling farmers that this is the situation.
“We strongly feel that someone ill-advised Government on the price the FRA is offering. What should be realized is that next year, the country will have a reduced production of maize”, he said.
Mr Zimba said statistics and historic trends have shown that when farmers are offered a poor price in a season, the next season production slumps.