Several small scale in Chipangali District in Eastern Province are threatened with hunger because most of them have sold their entire crop to briefcase traders way before it was ready for harvest.
The traders invaded Chipangali District early in the farming season enticing farmers to sell food crops such as maize for as low as K2.00 per kilogram.
ZANIS reports that even farmers growing cash crops like tobacco and soya beans were not spared, as they were enticed to sell their crops in the field way before it was ready for harvest.
A check in some villages in Chief Chanje’s area has revealed that some farmers confirmed entering into agreement with briefcase buyers and it is only now that farmers are realising that they sold the crop cheaply.
Ms Juliet Tembo, a farmer in the area, has sympathized with the affected farmers, adding that it was not their wish to prematurely sell their crop as they were forced to do so because they needed quick money to buy food and school requisites for their children.
“Yes, some farmers got money from these briefcase buyers even before they start harvesting their crops. It is not their wish but they do not have money to buy food and send their children to school,’’ Ms. Tembo said.
But Chipangali District Agricultural Coordinator Frederick Mwansa said it was unfortunate that farmers sold their crops early and cheaply just because they wanted to pay school fees hence falling prey to the scheme.
Mr Mwansa noted that even though the crop marketing has been liberalised, it was saddening to see the private sector enticing farmers to sell the crop that is still in the field at a lower price.
“Even if the crop marketing has been liberalised, farmers should not sell their crops before they even harvest at prices as low as K 2.00 per kilogram way back in January and February. This means that a person who is benefiting is a briefcase buyer at the expense of a farmer,’’ Mr. Mwansa said.
He has advised the farmers always wait for the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) which announces the prices of crops, adding that resorting to selling crops before harvest subjects farmers to poor bargaining power for selling their crop.