The Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has so far bought 803.55 metric tonnes of white maize and paid out more than K2.4 million to small scale farmers who supplied the commodity in region ‘B’ comprising six districts of Southern province.
In a telephone interview today, Region ‘B’ Marketing Manager Stephen Liato told ZANIS that the agency expects to buy a total of 21,450 metric tonnes of white maize from 74 satellite depots in Mazabuka, Monze, Namwala, Pemba, Gwembe and Chikankata districts.
Mr. Liato however said the FRA has not yet started buying maize in Pemba because the moisture content is still at about 14 per cent.
He explained that the 12.5 percent maize moisture content was one of the parametres that FRA uses to buy maize from farmers to ensure safe storage.
For Monze district, Mr. Liato explained that the FRA expects to purchase 5,500 metric tonnes of white maize in 20 satellite depots.
“So far the agency has bought 803.5 metric tonnes, of white maize and paid a total of K2, 410,650 million to small scale farmers who supplied the commodity and we have also bought 27.15 metric tonnes of soya beans worth K271, 500 from farmers in the entire region B,” he explained.
He has since advised farmers in districts such as Pemba where the maize moisture content was still above the recommended 12.5 per cent to expose their grain to the sun in order to expedite the drying process.
Mr. Liato has meanwhile assured farmers that the payment process has been enhanced adding that all farmers who supplied grain to the agency will get their dues within five days.
“The delays experienced in payments to farmers who supplied the commodity in the previous marketing seasons is a thing of the past as we are now able to process payments between two and five days which is almost tantamount to giving farmers cash on delivery,” he said.
But Monze Farmers’ Cooperative chairperson Edward Mudenda has urged the FRA to always consult local stakeholders (small scale farmers) when coming up with the floor price of maize so as to reach a win-win situation.
Mr. Mudenda argued that the prices of inputs such as fertiliser keep escalating without a corresponding considerable increase in maize prices.
He said the current situation makes farmers unable to meet production costs.
He has since appealed to the government to seriously look into the prices of fertiliser and also consult widely among small scale farmers on the maize floor price.
“Right now as I speak to you the price of fertiliser is K800 and yet we expect to sell our maize at K150 per 50 kilogramme bag of maize. My humble appeal is for the government to seriously look at the prices of inputs as well as consult widely among small scale farmers to come up with a reasonable grain floor price,” he said.