Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Zambia’s maize reserves at risk of depletion, warns Dr Fred M’membe

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Socialist Party President in Zambia, Dr Fred M’membe, has raised concerns about the state of the country’s strategic reserves, particularly those for maize, and the implications for food security in the country. In a statement issued recently, Dr M’membe emphasized the importance of strategic reserves as contingency holdings to mitigate against unforeseen occurrences or catastrophes.

Dr M’membe explained that when “business as usual is disrupted” by unplanned incidents, strategic reserves are used to minimize, not eliminate, the negative impact on the affected markets while actions are being undertaken to restore the status quo. He noted that some critical reserves held in Zambia include fuel, Bank of Zambia international reserves, and maize reserves.

According to Dr M’membe, the government buys strategic maize reserves during the maize marketing season, which are held by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA). In the past, the government bought 500,000 metric tonnes of maize out of the total maize production of 3.6 million metric tonnes in 2020, which translated to less than 20 per cent of total production at FRA dictated price per tonne.

Dr M’membe explained that the private sector, including milling companies for the production of stock feed, maize meal, and other products, absorbs the 80 per cent remainder of the production at prices dictated by the market, which is often higher than the FRA price, including export prices.

“The end result of this policy intervention is that we will deplete the food reserves to zero, and when a real natural calamity arises, we will have no fall-back position, and the country will be in serious trouble,” Dr M’membe said.

He went on to criticize the government’s recent release of maize from the FRA reserves, stating that it was a fallacy to assume that this could bring down prices, given that the stock released is insignificant to have a real price impact, considering that 80 per cent of the maize stock is in the hands of the private sector.

“This policy intervention has failed in previous governments and only goes to enrich the millers who will buy the maize at a discount from FRA and still sell at market prices. This policy measure is also unsustainable as the government does not have sufficient stocks to continuously provide market intervention on account of price increments,” he said.

Dr M’membe called on the government to aggressively increase maize production by providing a conducive environment at the policy level to incentivize farmers to grow maize. He also suggested increasing the strategic reserve ratio to at least 50 per cent of maize crop production to have an influence in the market.

Furthermore, he suggested direct subsidies on mealie prices, stating that this would not cause any harm as it is the country’s staple food on which the vulnerable depend. “Government should set up industrial milling plants to influence the performance of this market in the medium-term to have a real say in the maize market,” he added.

Dr M’membe urged the government to mechanize agriculture and move away from traditional hoe and ox-driven production methods by providing cheap, subsidized farming equipment.

31 COMMENTS

  1. Welcome to capitalism, a system based on causing great pain to your victims first and then selling them the medication if they survive. To win this battle, Zambians need to diversify their staple diet. Secretly ditch the nshima and start using alternatives but keep those to yourselves.

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    • That’s like comparing apples with grapes…why not the socialism in China which is about to become a world order? Actually the socialism in North Korea is like the capitalism in Zambia.

    • The politicans just the ones before them because the whole maize procurement and farm inputs scheme is a corrupt system for the govt of the day. Can you imagine if everyone diversified the diet…that lucrative fertiliser contract to the ruling party cadre will be no more meaning less donations to the ruling party coffers. No commenrical farmer grows maize for what? Its a loss the moment you sow the seed.

    • * The politicans of today and the ones before them would never 100% encourage diet diversification strategy because the whole maize procurement and farm inputs scheme is a corrupt system for the govt of the day. Can you imagine if everyone diversified the diet…that lucrative fertiliser contract to the ruling party cadre will be no more meaning less donations to the ruling party coffers. No commenrical farmer grows maize for what? Its a loss the moment you sow the seed.

    • Our capacity to store grain beyond 18 months is very limited. A lot of grain is stored under tarpaulins and is exposed to rodent invasion even if weevils are kept out. Modern bulk grain storage facilities are cheaper to buy, transport, striple/assemble and maintain. But the FRA has not invested in them beyond the major population centres. The trade-off the FRA faces is simple; to sell some of the maize and hold on to cash or risk losing it rodents and weevils if it stays in storage too long. Secondly, maize is too risky. We can diversify our cereals by encouraging sorghum and millet growing. This is already happening on a small scale but a lit more can be done. Nshima can be in any colour apart from white.

    • Socialist North Korea is suffering as a result of USA led economic embargoes running since 1950. Chinese Socialism has evolved for survival. If original concepts were followed, that country wouldn’t be affluent presently. American Capitalism, free market economy, fears global competition. Government keeps those corporations afloat by pumping tax payers funds into those private firms. Capitalism is survival of the fittest, while socialism is surviving (or falling) together as one. Petrodollar and the international money system (SWIFT) has made Capitalism look more superior than say, Communism. After WW1, Uncle Sam , was the greatest winner up to today.

    • Gunner+in+Zambia – there is need to modernise…from the point of purchase. We need to do away with 50kg sacks and use modern silos to store grain…FRA needs to use tankers to transport grain there will be less pilfering..better stock taking. Modern Silos are capable of storing maize for years using far modern air circulation techniques.

  2. We can’t diversify
    From nshima to what!
    The last time we saw people lining up to buy mealie meal was in 1988.
    If upnd don’t have the capacity or idea of what to do.
    Let them call for fresh elections.
    They have failed full stop.

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    • You are constipated with delusions. Call elections because of Maize shortage? Are Zambians starving when there are other sources of starch? It’s been 20 years since I last tasted nshima. I am still alive and healthy.
      In Botswana right now, there is a critical shortage of Sorghum and Potatoes. The population has switched to Maize meals, Spaghetti, Macaroni, and Rice. I have not heard the population become political concerning the issue. It’s a disgrace to hear such senseless and pathetic comments.

    • Yes …you can diversify your diet to other foods like cassava, yam, Mongu rice, potatoes. sorghum…look at your colleagues in West Africa how they eat Fufu which contains different types of milled grains. Nshima you cry about is not even nutritious.

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    • The government has not failed. It has only suffered a setback. It intends to succeed like success with Reuben Mtholo Phiri as minister in charge.

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    • Piranha, you are indeed out of the country. Most Zambians cannot eat rice, potatoes or spaghetti as a supplement to nshima. Haven’t you heard of stories where you receive visitors, give them rice, beef and cabbage for lunch. When they go back home they complain that you don’t offer lunch but just snacks? Nimu Zambia muno, rice is for breakfast, we eat potatoes with nshima and you are talking about replacing nshima?
      This rhetoric of saying change your staple food is dangerous. Didn’t we hear some people saying we should eat kandolo instead of bread? Eat roller meal instead of breakfast?
      You must be serious.

    • Piranha.. That’s how my uncle Dr Kenneth Kaunda lost the elections… because nshima had not just become expensive but also become elusive.
      Don’t play mapepo

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  3. Why should FRA buy maize at grz price from peasant farmers, sell millers at grz price, then finally, millers sell mealie meal at market price?
    Best approach is grz to have own mills or let ZNS do milling and sell to Zambians at NORMAL PRICE.

    My point is, instead of enriching millers, let’s workout a method for all to benefit from either maize or mealie meal. ERB controls (or caps) fuel prices. Can’t same approach be employed on corn meal?

    • That’s the logical thing to happen, but not with the politics involved in maize bwana. Plus HH and his pure capitalist approach to governance would never allow that.

    • HH has no “pure capitalist approach to governance” because he knows hw far capitalism can go in providing for society as well as what it fails to do. He’s not even interested in the debate btwn market and state because he considers it settled now. He’s a pragmatic social democrat who understands the state’s role as a catalyst in the economy.

  4. This is just a bluff, similar to what they did with load shedding. First shock the system and then announce investments or harvestment, whichever way you look at it. Ditch the outdated economics text books, the world has moved on to AI.

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  5. ” M’membe called on the government to aggressively increase maize production by providing a conducive environment at the policy level to incentivize farmers to grow maize. He also suggested increasing the strategic reserve ratio to at least 50 per cent of maize crop production to have an influence in the market.”
    What M’membe fells short say is that govt should promote growing of winter maize by commerical farmers and ZNS strategic commerical farms. He will not refer to Mwanawasa and Siktana’s sucessful winter maize production because he would never swallow his pride and applause anything related to Mwanawasa.

  6. #Tarono Orange.. I spent sometime in the village. Our staple was cassava. We never talked about mugayuwa because we’re doing fine with cassava. Then KK in his efforts to revolutionize agriculture introduced maize and fertilizer in my village. People abandoned cassava and went for this maize.

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  7. #Tarino Orange Cont. Cassava used to take three rain season to be ready for harvest. The new crop was only taking half a year to harvest.
    With time government started to fail in ensuring the delivery of the commodity. Today my village is solely dependent on maize meal and unfortunately there are not many growers of maize.
    That’s a brief explanation why we can’t diversify.

    • Deja Vu – I have been abroad for a long time interacted with alot of cultures done with nshima for a while even though its available in shops…there is need to diversify but trust me no Zambian politican would push for this because maize is “benefitical” to the govt of the day, M’membe for all his talking does not allign writing with fundmental socialist principles its laughable that he calls himself one. Its easy to state that bring back subsidies without saying where you will get the monies to service the huge debts.
      Maize growing is not benefical at all because of its excessive use of fertilisers which is not good for the soil.

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    • * I have been abroad for a long time interacted with alot of cultures done WITHOUT nshima for a while

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  8. Zambians are lining up for mealie meal because they are taking part in the smuggling of the commodity to the DRC.
    The fact is that the ordinary consumer in the DRC or Malawi has no problem buying a 25Kg bag at K250 or K350.
    Zambia is a land linked country and regional supply/demand or market forces should be allowed to take effect.
    Zambians should not get used to surviving on charity or subsidies.

  9. Because government has failed to manage the economics of maize, which necessarily does not need rocket science or AI to properly handle it; it also does not warrant some clever, ‘constipated’, muntu peeping in to advise Zambians to ditch nshima for rice, potatoes and macaroni. If the citizens want a shift from this ‘ugly’ staple food, they certainly would have forgone it way back. They want “icimege”, not that casual, exotic staff. Please sort out the mess.

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  10. UNCLE KK ……. THE ROT STARTED AT HIS DOOR STEP
    HE IS LONG GONE AND FORGOTTEN
    FOR THOSE WHO WERE ARIOUND AT THE TIME SAW HOW THE COUNTRY WAS BROUGHT TO ITS KNESS
    ZAMBIAN HISTORY WRITTEN BY THE VICTORS WAS NOT ENTELY CORRECT

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    • Food shortages were a war on its own. Mealie meal smuggling, inflation and cost of goods and living standards peaked. People were tired of him. To mitigate chaos, he turned to IMF, in 1984, from which body he pulled back owing to food riots. He surrendered and threw in his white handkerchief, by abandoning those market reforms in 1987. After losing economic grip, five years later, he also lost political power too, in 1991.
      Either history would repeat itself or UPND may learn from it to avoid untimely exit. Progressive leadership is best tested in crises.

  11. Growing of maize is in Zambia is like how mangoes grow its seasonal but if you know how expensive and exotic this fruit is in the West you would cry how we let it go to waste in rainy season. Can you imagine if we converted all those mangoes to concentrate before they went to waste and exported drums of that to UK. Just like Maize if FRA paid more for winter maize commerical farmers would be growing it all year round.

  12. All of us have at least one idea on how this maize thing can be solved. But the problem is that non of us has run a government and once given a chance to run government, we will develop other ideas. Same with Upnd. When they were in the terraces, they saw the weak positions but given a chance, those positions disappeared.

    • Too many external forces at play in Zambia for you to be a Realists especially in politics that’s why I can never be one. You have high ranking officals who sponsored your party during opposition wanting fertiliser supply contracts and FRA haulage contracts (this is why GBM is quiet all the sudden), then you have cadres wanting to eat by exporting maize to DRC.

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