By Levy Ngoma
United Party for National Development-UPND-wishes to condemn in no uncertain terms Government’s continued insistence that farmers must sell their maize to the Food Reserve Agency-FRA, a sing-song that has no value to farmers in the country.
It is absurd and a fallacy on the part of the Government to force farmers to sell their maize to the FRA when the prices of seed, fertilizer and other farming inputs have remained high and unsustainable.
What makes this scenario even more painful is that the PF, has through a number of milling companies, entered into an agreement to supply them with cheap, subsidized maize in order to mop up maize from unsuspecting farmers so that they could hit the 1 million metric tonnes target.
Much as the UPND doesn’t support the rampant swindling nature of most briefcase buyers and millers, we feel it is unjustifiable for the FRA to continue driving the Government’s political agenda of targeting the purchase of 1 million metric tonnes of maize during the 2020 maize marketing season.
The FRA must be reminded that their inability to pay farmers for the maize supplied to it by farmers over successive seasons coupled with their unattractive maize price to the farmers now at K110 per 50kgs is killing farmers.
Therefore, we wish to appeal to the FRA to swiftly and expeditiously settle the arrears that the Agency owes to farmers which is in excess of K97 million before it could even think of subjecting farmers to a more harsh lifestyle.
Already, we have tens of thousands of small scale farmers’ survival prospects during the 2020/2021 farming season bleak owing to the havoc that heavy rainfall and drought wreaked during the 2019/2020 farming season.
We are surprised that Government is interfering in the maize market when the Ministry of Agriculture has, through Mr Michael Katambo insisted that Zambia has recorded a bumper harvest for the 2019/2020 farming season.
The Author is the Opposition UPND Chairperson for Agriculture Committee